May 7th, 2021
workers compensation
ORDER TO CONDUCT TELEPHONIC BENEFIT REVIEW CONFERENCES EXTENDED UNTIL JULY 29, 2021

On March 18, 2020, pursuant to §§ 12-2-30(b)(8) and 25-5-12, Ala. Code 1975, on March 18, 2020, Chief Justice Tom Parker issued “Administrative Order Concerning Workers’ Compensation Cases During the Period of Suspension of In-Person Proceedings”, authorizing circuit judges to conduct workers’ compensation settlement hearings telephonically or by videoconferencing.  This Order also authorized the use of the Alabama Department of Labor Ombudsman Program for approval of workers’ compensation settlements as well, and specifically allowed the dismissal of a workers’ compensation claim that was pending in court if settled with written approval of an ombudsman.

This Order was extended several times by Administrative Orders Nos. 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9, issued on April 2, 2020, April 30, 2020, May 13, 2020, August 14, 2020, and December 21, 2020, respectively.  The last order, Administrative Order No. 9, extended the original Administrative Order until April 30, 2021, or further order of the Court.  The Alabama Supreme Court recently issued another extension by Administrative Order No. 10, authorizing telephonic and videoconferencing in workers’ compensation settlement hearings, and approval of settlements by a state ombudsman, until July 29, 2021, or further order of the Court.

Considering the increase in vaccinations and decreased numbers of Covid-19 related hospitalizations statewide, it is unclear if the Supreme Court will extend this Order indefinitely; however, the Court may issue another short three-month extension, or authorize each Presiding Circuit Judge discretion to issue similar orders accordingly. 

In the meantime, however, it appears that parties in workers’ compensation settlements will continue to enjoy the ability to have the settlements approved without delay.

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