Hearings, we don’t need no stinking hearings!

Why the New York Workers Compensation Board won’t give you your day in court!

Workers Compensation Claims in New York are claims against and insurance policy administered through a State Agency – they are not lawsuits, but basic rights of Due Process require that participants (injured workers, employers through insurance carriers, the Workers Compensation Board) get their day in Court to make their case or protect their rights. And because it is an administrative, not a straight legal, process there historically have been a series of hearings to address the multitude of issues as those issues crop up in the case. (e.g. you need some form of medical care that the insurance company decides is unnecessary, the parties request a hearing and appear before a judge to argue their case). However, during the past ten years under the guise of “speedy resolution” and “cost reduction” the New York WCB has made it a point to limit the ability of parties to get in front of a Judge and try to process everything ‘on the papers’ in some back office around the State. Unfortunately, this limitation of rights to a hearing (actually protected in the Statute under Section 20 of the Workers Compensation Law) often leads to more delay, higher costs, poor decisions, binding legal decisions by fiat and worse.

Data released by the Workers Compensation Board is startling –in 2011 there were 266,046 statewide hearings where parties appeared before an actual Law Judge. Compare this to ten years earlier when 407,983 hearings were held.  A 34.8% decline!  But delays for hearings, delays for actual decisions, delays in resolution of issues is, if anything, slower and more costly. So what are the Judges doing if they have less hearings? What is the WCB doing – and have the streamlined processes really helped – not really but click here to give me your opinion or experience and stay tuned for the follow up. I want my hearing – or not!


District Office     Number of Hearings

Brooklyn                         33,794

Queens                           28,984

Hauppauge                      28,923

Manhattan                       28,779

Buffalo                            26,253

Peekskill                         25,830

Albany                            22,063

Hempstead                      20,911

Rochester                        20,322

Syracuse                         19,070

Binghamton                      11,117

Total                             266,046


In 2001, the WCB reported 407,983 hearings.  The 2011 figure shows a decline of 141,937 or 34.8% since 2001.  There are no available data for the number of ALJs or court reporters that relate to the number of hearings.