Date: June 2, 2006
Three sections of the Workers' Compensation Law require the parties to file with the Board, prior to a conference or hearing, a statement on the specific issues in dispute:
Such statements allow the Board an opportunity to ascertain the relevant disputed issues, to simplify and limit them, and to set the case on a resolution track that will allow the parties to present all relevant and probative evidence in a timely manner so that the Board can render its decision. For claims which the Board has designated as expedited, any and all outstanding issues in dispute should be addressed to the extent possible at one hearing.
In its ongoing effort to improve the adjudication process and to more promptly render decisions on disputed issues, the Board is (1) revising its Pre-Hearing Conference Statement (Form PH-16.2), and (2) streamlining its Expedited Hearing procedures.
The Pre-Hearing Conference Statement (Form PH-16.2) has been changed to a multi-purpose form now entitled "Statement on Specific Issues in Dispute." This form, still referenced as Form PH-16.2, can now be used to meet the requirements set for the Pre-hearing Conference by WCL § 25(2-a)(d) and 12 NYCRR 300.33(e) and set for the Expedited Hearing by 12 NYCRR 300.34(b). The newly-revised form has a section for the Claimant to complete and a section for the Carrier/Self-Insured Employer to complete. The reverse side of the form now contains references to the pertinent statutes and regulations. It also provides important information for the participants in the adjudication process, including the purpose of the statement, when and where to mail the statement, and what may happen if the statement is not timely filed. Revised Form PH-16.2 is available on the Board's website (www.wcb.ny.gov) under the heading "Common Forms," or from any Board District Office or Service Center.
The Expedited Hearing procedures have been streamlined in an effort to make them uniform statewide, to better explain to the parties the expedited process, and to clarify for the participants what to do if an emergency arises and they can not attend the scheduled expedited hearing.
WCL § 25(3)(d) provides that the Board may order an expedited hearing for cases it deems appropriate. When the Board prior to a hearing orders that the case be heard on an expedited basis, it will send to the parties in interest a letter, which will precede the formal Notice of Hearing and explain the expedited process, providing the parties extra time to prepare for the hearing. If a WCL Judge at a hearing directs that the next hearing be expedited, the hearing notice will explain the expedited process so that everyone is aware of the procedures involved.
Both the letter and the Notice of Hearing will reference the filing of the Statement on Specific Issues within twenty days of the expedited hearing, and will explain to the parties how to request that a hearing be rescheduled. Both will make clear that there shall be no cancellation, adjournment, or continuance of the expedited hearing unless the WCL Judge approves, based upon an emergency. Any party or representative seeking to cancel, adjourn or continue the hearing prior to its scheduled date must file with the Board a written request at least fifteen days prior to the hearing date stating the reasons for the request. Copies of such requests shall be filed with the other parties. If the cancellation, adjournment, or continuance is approved by the WCL Judge, the expedited hearing will be rescheduled and the parties will be notified in writing. If the WCL Judge denies the request, the parties will be notified in writing and the hearing will take place as scheduled.
Should an emergency occur within fifteen days of the hearing which does not involve the claimant but one of the representatives, arrangements should be made to secure coverage of other counsel for the hearing. If the emergency involves the claimant, counsel can communicate to the WCL Judge, at the hearing, the circumstances for his/her absence. Hearings which have been designated expedited will be scheduled for at least thirty minutes, so as to allow the parties the time necessary to present their evidence and make their legal arguments. Wherever possible, parties will be given a date certain for the hearing in advance.
The Board is confident that the newly redesigned, multi-purpose Statement on Specific Issues in Dispute (Form PH-16.2), the improved language on the form, and the simplified procedures concerning expedited hearings, along with an increased time allowance for those hearings, will create an improved adjudication process whereby all parties are aware of their responsibilities in defining the issues and in presenting their evidence in a prompt and efficient manner. The Board asks for cooperation as it strives to meet the needs of injured workers and employers in New York State.