Why Your Representation Should Be Attending Hearings In-Person

9/13/2021
Donald G. Drinko By Donald G. Drinko, Gary D. Baker Jr.

On July 6, 2021, in-person workers’ compensation hearings returned for the Ohio Industrial Commission, but with a choice. Both injured workers and representatives were given the option of attending hearings in-person, or continuing with remote hearings via WebEx. After two months of evidence, can one definitively state which is better?

Any potential benefits that come with remote attendance at workers’ comp hearings are outweighed by the clear advantages associated with in-person attendance. Remote attendance benefits employers through lower costs, the ability to attend multiple hearings at multiple locations, and convenience. However, there are disadvantages such as difficulties with cross-examination, less rapport with hearing officers, and technical issues with remotely presenting images or written evidence. On the other hand, the most important advantage that comes with attending hearings in-person is that it helps with the credibility and perceived strength of the argument being presented. While the same arguments could be given remotely as they could in-person, body language and tone are more effective at in-person hearings, adding emphasis and strength to any argument, and ultimately could be the difference between winning or losing a hearing.

Psychology professor Holly Orcutt in her study, “Detecting Deception in Children’s Testimony,” used a fake crime and mock jury to examine the impact of remote testimony versus in-person testimony. Her study found that the mock jurors rated the children who testified remotely, via closed-circuit television, as less honest, less intelligent, and concluded that their testimony was less accurate. Similarly, psychology professor Sara Landstrom in her study, “Children’s Live and Videotaped Testimonies,” noted that “it can be argued that live testimonies, due to face-to-face immediacy, are perceived [by jurors] as more vivid than, for example, video-based testimonies, and in-turn are perceived more favourably, considered more credible and are more memorable.”

Being perceived as more credible and intelligent in your arguments, or being viewed more favorably or memorable can be the deciding factor in a workers’ compensation hearing, particularly in instances where the issues could go either way. Consequently, employers’ representatives attending hearings in-person could be vital in obtaining a successful result. As long as the option to attend hearings in-person is offered, the benefits for employers in having their representatives attend in-person are clear. If you would like to submit a question to Shop talk, or would like to discuss this or any other workers’ compensation issues, please feel free to contact us.