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Texas lawmakers have introduced bills that would require the Division of Workers’ Compensation to conduct contested case hearings telephonically or by videoconference in some instances.
H.B. 4214 and companion measure S.B. 1640, both introduced this month and sent to committees, would require the state to adopt rules allowing remote case hearings upon mutual agreement of the parties. Contested case hearings are currently held live in field offices closest to the injured employees’ homes.
American Claims Professionals proposed the legislation, which is supported by attorneys who represent 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 by video, but during the COVID-19 pandemic, we learned we could make the hearings process function via remotely if we needed to,” Mr. Tysinger said.
However, he said, contested case hearings lose something with the lack of physical presence, and he opposed a proposal from the last legislative session that would have required that all hearings be held online.
“Subtleties of communication and body language just can’t be replicated online,” he said. “The personal relationships that help the system function smoothly are not fostered by online hearings.”
WorkCompCentral is a sister publication of Business Insurance. More stories here.