Texas lawmakers have introduced bills that would require the Division of Workers’ Compensation to conduct hearings in contested cases by telephone or by video conference in some cases.
HB 4214 and companion measure SB 1640, both introduced this month and sent to committees, would require the state to adopt rules allowing remote hearings by mutual agreement of the parties. Disputed case hearings are currently held live at field offices closest to the injured employees’ homes.
American Claims Professionals proposed the legislation, which is supported by lawyers representing insurance companies.
Alan Tysinger, a San Antonio-based attorney who represents injured employees, said he also supports the bill.
“There are limits to what can be done with video, but during the COVID-19 pandemic we learned that we could make the hearing process work remotely if we needed to,” Tysinger said.
But, he said, hearings in contested cases lost something with the lack of a physical presence, and he opposed a proposal from the last legislative session that would have required all hearings to be held online.
“Subtleties of communication and body language simply cannot be replicated online,” he said. “The personal relationships that help the system run smoothly are not fostered by online hearings.”
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