May 18, 2021
by Andrew Evenson

The Future of Live Hearings in Oregon Workers’ Compensation

Last September, I wrote about the Oregon Workers’ Compensation Board’s (WCB) announcement of its upcoming utilization of Zoom for Government to facilitate administrative hearings and mediations via videoconference. By all accounts, the videoconference feature was widely accepted and considered largely successful, and the technological aspects were mostly seamless.

As COVID-related restrictions are now slowly being lifted, the WCB Board Chair recently announced that the State of Oregon has set a target date of September 1, 2021, for a potential phased reopening of state office buildings. The WCB is reviewing its processes to determine the best steps forward for a gradual return to in-person proceedings, including hearings and mediations.

Pending further state guidance, the WCB Hearings Division anticipates continuing to offer hearings and mediations by phone and by Zoom videoconference, but they also now anticipate reopening for live hearings, when necessary. So, that begs the question, when is a live hearing necessary and/or recommended? First and foremost, from an employer/insurer/administrator’s standpoint, when claimant’s credibility (or when other witness’s credibility) is relevant to the determination of a litigated issue. The Zoom videoconference option provided a helpful tool to assess testimonial credibility, when live hearings were no longer an option. Simply put, assessing a witness’s veracity is easier when you can see his/her presentation and mannerisms. Additionally, it is reasonable to believe that a witness is more inclined to be truthful when facing a judge, versus testifying telephonically. Similarly, when public health and safety allows, it will be worth considering motioning for a live hearing when you believe the outcome of a litigated issue will be determined, at least in part, by witness credibility.

If you have any questions about litigation strategy in one of your Oregon workers’ compensation cases, or if you have any other Oregon workers’ compensation questions, concerns, or topics of discussion, please contact me at  or 503-595-6109.