Many injured workers wonder how hearings are held and if they must attend, see a doctor or attend an Independent Medical Exam (IME) during the pandemic.
The answer, relative to hearings, is that the NYS Workers’ Compensation Board has a virtual hearing process that allows you to attend your hearing by phone or by video. The virtual hearing process is run on WebEx, which is much like Zoom or Facetime.
The hearing notices have instructions on how to access the WebEx system and how to test it prior to your hearing. If you cannot make it work or do not have the necessary equipment, you may simply appear by calling in or having the Judge call you. At MCV Law, we have all the necessary equipment and appear daily at hearings from our offices or homes. For most hearings, it is easier for the Judge to call you. This avoids the technical problems and delays often encountered. This also alleviates concerns and worries injured workers often have about navigating the virtual hearing system.
Regarding your medical appointments, it is important that you continue to see your treating physicians and obtain up to date medical evidence of impairment at least every Ninety (90) days to maintain your benefits. While the Board has offered some leniency on this requirement, injured workers are still required to establish that they made efforts to see their doctor within 90 days and that Covid played a role in the delay of an appointment. To make this easier, the Board has approved the use of Telemedicine and encouraged medical providers to be flexible.
Lastly, IME’s have resumed and, absent good cause, failure to attend an IME may result in the suspension of benefits. If you are going to assert that you are unable to attend the IME because of the pandemic, it is best to document your reasons ahead of the exam. If you arrive at the IME site and believe it unsafe, it is best to document the conditions (pictures are suggested) and immediately seek an alternative site or exam.
To best protect yourself, work with your legal team to take the necessary steps consistent with the strategy in your case relative to attending Hearings, IME’s and in treating for your injury or illness during the pandemic.