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June 16, 2020 Article

Maine Workers' Comp Alert: WCB Transition to In-Person Hearings Likely to Occur No Sooner Than August 2020; Section 312 IME’s Have Resumed

Maine Workers' Comp Alert

A conference with Maine Workers' Compensation Board Executive Director John Rohde was held last week to discuss the transition to in-person hearings at the WCB. The WCB Subcommittees also met to discuss recent developments.

There is no consensus on the time to return to in-person hearings. There is agreement that certain cases are best heard in-person, either due to credibility issues, complexity, and/or amount of documentary evidence.

The earliest the WCB will be ready for in-person hearings will be August. There will be conferences and lump sum settlement hearings scheduled for Zoom, ahead of full hearings.

For the time being, when hearings are scheduled, they will likely be held by Zoom, absent agreement of the parties to have an in-person hearing. If one party feels there is a compelling reason for an in-person hearing, the case may be scheduled for a Zoom conference with the ALJ. There may be hybrid hearings where some participants are in-person and others remote, or in which witnesses participate from a WCB conference room by computer. Face coverings and social distancing will be required. There will be a limit on the number of people allowed in a room.

The WCB is in the process of developing a hierarchy for scheduling cases. This may consist of:

  • Provisional Orders
  • Petitions for Award with lost time
  • Petitions for Review
  • Petitions for Award without lost time
  • Petitions to Fix

There is consensus that indemnity disputes of all kinds should take priority.

Finally, Section 312 examiners have started to schedule exams. One physician attempted an exam by video, which was apparently not well received.

Stay tuned for further updates as the WCB works through the transition from the pandemic.

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