Emergency Workers’ Comp Procedures

During this Coronavirus pandemic, the team at Anders Newton continues to work diligently to represent employers and insurers in workers’ compensation matters.  Like other professionals, we are working remotely as needed to decrease the spread of the disease but, thanks to technology, are still as accessible as ever to our clients.

For pending workers’ compensation matters, the primary disruptions include court proceedings and appearances. As of March 20, 2020, both the North Carolina Industrial Commission and the North Carolina Supreme Court have announced changes to the scheduling of litigation, including workers’ compensation matters. Many policies have already changed since publication earlier in the week. Below is an overview of current emergency procedures, which are subject to change at any time:

Workers’ Compensation Mediations:

All mediations held in Industrial Commission cases must be conducted with all parties appearing remotely or, in the alternative, be rescheduled for a date on or after April 13, 2020. If all parties do not consent to appear remotely, then the mediation must be rescheduled. Most mediators are using platforms such as Zoom or MS Meet to allow for both joint and private sessions.

Deputy Commissioner Hearings:

All Deputy Commissioner hearings scheduled to be heard in March or April of 2020 will be continued until the next available docket, unless the parties are notified otherwise. Although the Industrial Commission has not entered any alternatives for urgent hearings or unusual circumstances, we believe the Commission may consider motions requesting telehearings as permitted under the emergency procedures for medical motion hearings.

Medical Motions Hearings:

All medical motion hearings will be held remotely through a telephone conference call, with testimony recorded by a court reporter. However, if the parties reach a stipulation waiving lay testimony or allowing testimony by deposition, and the Deputy Commissioner approves, then the parties can skip a hearing altogether. In that case, they simply file a Pre-Trial Agreement and stipulated exhibits, and then take medical depositions.

Full Commission / Executive Secretary Hearings

Both Full Commission hearings and hearings relating to matters arising before the Executive Secretary will take place by telephone conference call. Full Commission arguments will be recorded by court reporter.

Telehealth Visits

According to the Industrial Commission, telehealth visits are “not impermissible.” Although the message is vague, we at Anders Newton interpret the Commission’s whole message as encouraging carriers to authorize telehealth appointments for the time being. The Commission advises providers to bill telehealth visits under the Fee Schedule, using the same Evaluation & Management codes that are used for an in-person office visit, except that “02” should be used as the “Place of Service” code. For uncoded services without scheduled amounts, the carrier and provider should try to reach an agreement for payment. The Industrial Commission’s latest report also indicates a willingness to hear medical motions if employees feel telehealth visits have been wrongfully denied. Therefore, carriers choosing to deny telehealth appointments should prepare for a possible motion by gathering ample evidence supporting their position.

We will continue to monitor developments and update you as changes emerge. As always, please contact Anders Newton at  919-516-8400 with questions or concerns.

Disclaimer: The information on the blog is provided for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Cases referenced do not represent the law firm’s entire record. Each case is unique and must be evaluated on its own merits. The outcome of a particular case cannot be based on past results.

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