A recent law was passed in Virginia which shall take effect July 1, 2013 which will make it so that employers will not be obligated to disclose the personally identifiable information of current and former employees. This is relevant in the world of workers’ compensation as many witnesses to an on-the-job injury are co-workers. Often, an injured worker does not know the address and contact information of their co-workers, and it is common to only know the first name or nick-name of co-workers on a work site.
The Workers’ Compensation Commission was set up (in theory) to allow injured parties to handle their claims pro-se without the assistance of a lawyer. However, most pro-se claimants do not know how to use the Worker’s Compensation Commission’s procedures to force an employer to provide the information necessary to prove all of the various elements of their claim. As the injured worker has the burden of proof in their claim, supporting witnesses are often necessary to a successful hearing. In order to compel a witness to come to a workers’ compensation hearing, they must be served a subpoena by the sheriff, or an equally qualified process server. However, no subpoena is possible if you don’t know the full name and contact information for the witness.
Lawyers can use discovery procedures available such as “interrogatories” and “request for the production of documents” to access contact information for potential witnesses in workers’ compensation cases. With the new law going into effect, it is anticipated that these procedures will need to be used more aggressively by lawyers and pro-se claimants, and may require Commissioners having to “compel” employer’s to provide this necessary information to injured workers. We at Koonz, McKenney, Johnson, DePaolis & Lightfoot are on the lookout to see how this law changes how we protect the rights of injured workers and our clients.
M. Thomas McWeeny, Esq.