Electronic filing has not led to fast resolution of workers’ compensation claims
Compensation when enacted and modified has always professed to be interested in promoting fast and just resolution of industrial injuries and occupational diseases. What has developed is extended litigation by way of a digital presence. The medium is not always the message. Just because we can now inspect and connect with the existing systems of documentation electronically and even remotely does not by itself, permit just or quick conflict resolution.
Electronic filing of documents and review through computer access with shortened periods of time does not remove or even unearth the delays associated with the decision making process and appeal determinations. There cannot be a cookbook analysis where every factual situation leads to a quick one size fits all evaluation. Each case must be decided on its merits with ample time left for development of the record by all interested parties.
The moving parts of a standard compensation claim, relies upon factual development with confirmation by both employers and injured workers; presentation of Medical evidence with reasonable time for review and confrontation if requested, pursuant to wcl sec 20. This section of the Workers’ Compensation Law grants the statutory right to “a hearing where either party may present evidence and be represented by counsel”. This is the gray area of litigation enshrined and preserved by the actual hearing process. Concomitant with these rights is the appeals process.
Regrettably, the time associated with the publication of a determination after appeal has become more that 14 months and counting from the initial application for said appeal to the WCB. This means after the delays associated with the hearing process are absorbed, an injured worker may not actually be receiving monetary benefits nor medical treatment for an extended period of time which has irked both the disabled worker and employer alike.
What is needed is not more computerization but, more personnel in the administrative appeals process who can render equitable decisions on the appeals submitted in a shortened time period. This is not a call for rubber stamping lower board decisions but, a shortening of the delay in rendering well thought out and credible determinations once reviewed. Possibly this will not fall on deaf ears.
As always , this is one man’s opinion and merely submitted for discussion bases. All individual issues should be discussed with your representative for more complete advice.