In early 2018 – two years before the COVID-19 pandemic and before anyone had heard of Zoom – the New York State Workers’ Compensation Board launched a “virtual hearing” program that allowed judges, injured workers, and attorneys to appear remotely. This virtual hearing program allowed the Board to continue to hold hearings on a regular basis throughout the pandemic. It continues to do so, and thus far there has been no announcement about when regular hearings will resume so that an injured worker can appear in person before the judge who is going to decide their claim.
To appear for a hearing virtually, a worker can go to the Board’s web site, which is www.wcb.ny.gov, and locate the “Virtual Hearings” button. The button leads to a page with instructions about how to appear virtually, a software download, and a way to test your computer. When using the virtual hearing program from a computer for the first time, it’s important to run a test a day or two before the hearing to be certain that it works on your system and that you know how to use it.
Another option is to download the Board’s virtual hearing app to a smartphone. The app is available in both the App Store and the Google Play Store as “WCB VHC.”
Many workers who are represented by an attorney prefer to attend their hearings by phone. When appearing by phone, it is important to make certain that your lawyer has the number you can be reached at for your hearing. The call will be placed by the judge, which means it may come from an unknown number – so if you’re expecting a call for your hearing, it’s important to pick up any calls that come in.
Hearings are not always called at their scheduled time. Depending on the judge’s calendar, a virtual hearing or phone call may begin an hour or more after the scheduled time (or more rarely may be called early). Plan to allow extra time to be available for your hearing.