Today, All workers comp hearings in New York State are virtual, which means you won't be going to the courthouse to defend your claim. Instead, you'll be doing it online. But how do you attend a virtual hearing? How should you prepare? And what are some of the things you could do to increase the chances that the judge will rule favorably in your case? We're going to answer all those questions right now.
My name is Rex Zachofsky and I became a New York workers compensation lawyer 17 years ago after getting injured on the job. If you're looking for a lawyer to help you with your claim for New York State workers compensation benefits, please give me a call at 212-406-8989 to schedule a free consultation.
So what do you need to know about attending your workers compensation Virtual hearing here in New York State?
In most cases, the judge is going to call you over the phone. When your attorney logs in they also log you in and include a phone number where the judge may reach you. Their call will likely appear as an unknown number, so be prepared to answer it around the time of your hearing.
However, if you are able to log in with video, I highly recommend doing so. This lets the judge in the insurance company see your face and your injuries, giving them a better sense of what you're experiencing.
Recently had a case with a client with a very significant leg injury and he had a three tiered halo leg brace, which the judge was able to see because they had him log on virtually. The purpose of the hearing was for a reduction in benefits at the insurance company’s request, but when the judge saw what the claimant was dealing with, he ruled against the reduction and maintained the client's benefits at the rate they were at.
So log on virtually if you can. The Worker's Compensation Board has a video with instructions for how to do so. I'll include a link to that in the description below.
Regardless of how you attend, there are some very important things to keep in mind. First and foremost, act appropriately. That means don't be eating during a hearing. Don't be in the bathroom.
Shut off your TV in the background. Don't talk over people when they're talking, and put yourself in an appropriate place that is not too loud. Please don't be outside on the street, in the subway station, on a bus or at the mall or a bodega. Don't be in a room with children or other people talking if you can avoid it.
Second, if you do log in virtually, make sure you dress appropriately as if you're actually going into court for a hearing. Make sure you’re seated in a comfortable and appropriate position. Don't be lying in bed. And make sure your background is appropriate. Third, when it's time for your hearing, log in early if you can, and whatever you do, do not miss your hearing.
Nothing tells the judge that you don't take your case seriously like missing your own hearing. As a result, they can mark your case closed and record the fact that you didn't show up, which will reflect badly on you and your future efforts to get benefits.
You can significantly improve the chances of success at your hearing by preparing with your lawyer in advance.
This doesn't mean calling them the morning of the hearing. It means reaching out to them days or even weeks in advance so the both of you can adequately prepare. I get such better information from my clients who call me in advance, and it allows me to prepare a much better strategy in court.
This is also your chance to get all of your issues, questions, concerns and comments out on the table. You want to do this in advance with your attorney so you don't feel compelled to jump out of your seat and start blurting things out during the hearing. I really can't stress enough how damaging this can be to your case to get everything off your chest in advance with your lawyer.
You should also go over any testimony that you need to give, including circumstances surrounding your accident, details about your injury, your loss of wage earning capacity, the timeline of your claim, important medical events and your current work status. Get clear in your mind how you will respond to questions about each of these things so you don't ramble and accidentally hurt your case instead of helping it.
And in addition to talking to your lawyer in advance, you should also contact your doctor in advance and let them know that you're hearing is coming up. Find out if there are any outstanding requests for treatment or surgery. And if so, share that with your attorney as well. Depending on the purpose of the hearing, it may or may not be discussed, but at least your lawyer can mention it to the judge and the insurance company so that they understand that a medical request is pending.
Now that you know how to prepare for your hearing, what should you expect when the day arrives?
Most workers compensation hearings lasts only a few minutes, although they can go much longer. If you have a trial and it runs long, the judge may give everybody a break, but you should still come prepared to be present through your entire hearing.
The people in attendance at your hearing will include you, your lawyer, the judge and the insurance company's attorney. There may also be others present at your hearing, such as witnesses, a representative of your employer or a representative of the insurance company.
When the hearing begins, your lawyer and the insurance company attorney may highlight documents for the judge to review, including things such as medical records, unpaid bills, evidence of lost wages, employment records, depositions by expert witnesses and documentation of your job search.
Then at some point, you may be put under oath to give some form of testimony. You will likely be asked questions by your lawyer and the insurance company's lawyer and possibly even the judge. Make sure the information you provide is the truth and resist the urge to exaggerate. All of your answers should be as short and as accurate as possible because you put your case in jeopardy the moment you start to ramble or rant in court.
Which leads us to the most important part of having a successful hearing...
How you conduct yourself in court will have the greatest impact on the outcome of your hearing. Despite how you might feel about the situation and everybody involved, show respect during your hearing. Don't come in with an ax to grind because it won't help you, and understand that each hearing has a very specific purpose with the judge playing a very specific role. They are there to make a decision on specific issues, so it's not open season where you can talk about whatever you want.
For example, if your hearing is for determination of degree of disability, then that's what the judge is there to discuss. Don't yell and scream about not being able to pay the rent when the judge is just trying to figure out the extent of your disability. They don't have time for it and you're not going to sway them with a sob story about your rent. The judge might feel bad for you, but ultimately they're just going to say, “I'm sorry, but that's completely irrelevant to the issues before us today” and refuse to give it any consideration.
Also, when you respond to questions, remember: less is more. I cannot stress how important this is. Less is more! Nobody has ever won a case by giving a rambling answer that they thought solved everything. So if a question could be answered with a simple “yes,” “no,” or “I don't know,” that's it, that's the answer.
I can't tell you how many times I've heard somebody be asked a simple yes or no question, like, “Sir, on January 15th, were you working?” And then they respond with a 20-minute-long answer that wastes everybody's time. Don't do it! Not only does giving a long answer and sharing too much information annoy the judge, but can also give the insurance company information that they will use against you.
Oftentimes, the judge won't make their decision during the hearing because they still need time to review the documents and then consider all of the testimony. In those cases, the judge will write a decision within a short time and have it mailed to you. This is called a reserve decision.
If the judge does rule against you, then you can appeal their decision. Just be sure to file your appeal within 30 days of the filing date, otherwise you're stuck with that decision.
However, if you have a strong case, prepare in advance and conduct yourself appropriately in court, Then there's a very good chance the judge will rule in your favor!
So if you're in New York State and you need an experienced worker's compensation lawyer to represent you in court and fight for what you deserve, you can call me for a free consultation at 212-406-8989. Our conversation is confidential, costs you nothing, and could potentially save you thousands in benefits.
And if you think that you might end up settling your case, then you'll need to know some of the secrets to getting a big worker's compensation settlement that most workers comp lawyers won't tell you. For example, did you know that about half of all cases that ended with a settlement initially got denied or had to file an appeal at some point?
And yet most people accept their denial without pushing back. So it pays to know the facts. I'll include a link to that video here. Click to watch it now and I'll see you there!