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As a rule, the proceedings of the Accident Appeal Board take place in writing and are based on written documents. As an exception, an oral hearing may be arranged in accordance with the Administrative Judicial Procedure Act (Laki oikeudenkäynnistä hallintoasioissa, “HOL”).
Provisions regarding oral hearings
The Accident Appeal Board’s oral hearings are subject to HOL, chapter 7 regarding oral hearings in administrative courts.
HOL, section 57, subsection 1: An administrative court shall arrange an oral hearing if the court deems this necessary or if a private party so requests. An oral hearing may hear a party, the authority that issued the decision, witnesses and experts, and may also accept other evidence. HOL, section 59: An administrative court may restrict an oral hearing to concern only part of a matter, to an examination of the views of the parties and of the authority that issued the decision or to the acceptance of oral testimony, or in some other corresponding manner.
HOL, section 57, subsection 2: The court may decline to arrange an oral hearing despite the request of a party if:
1) the party status of the party requesting an oral hearing is based on membership of a municipality or other entity;
2) adequate evidence of the facts that are of significance for deciding the matter has already been obtained, on the basis of which the matter may be decided without leaving the court in reasonable doubt as to the facts;
3) the facts may be established in some other way;
4) an oral hearing has already been arranged in the same matter at an administrative court; or
5) it is otherwise manifestly unnecessary to arrange an oral hearing, having regard to the nature and significance of the matter for the party and the requirements of a fair trial.
Paragraphs 2, 3, and 5 also apply to the assessment of the Accident Appeal Board regarding the necessity of organising an oral hearing.
HOL, section 57, subsection 4: A person requesting an oral hearing shall declare why it is necessary to arrange this, and what evidence he or she would present at the oral hearing. The written claim should be presented as early as possible – preferably in the letter of appeal. The Accident Appeal Board may request supplements to the claim, if necessary.
HOL, section 57, subsection 5: If the statement of an expert or private written testimony is relied on in a matter, then an oral hearing shall only be arranged to hear the expert or witness if this is necessary for examining the matter.
HOL, section 58: An administrative court shall decide a request for an oral hearing in the context of the principal matter, or shall make an interim decision concerning the matter. If an administrative court declines to arrange an oral hearing requested by a party, then the parties shall be notified of this. The parties shall be given an opportunity to submit additional written evidence at this time. Notification may be waived if the appeal is ruled inadmissible or rejected immediately, or if notification is manifestly unnecessary on some other corresponding grounds.
Oral hearing arrangements are further prescribed in sections 60–78 of HOL.
Oral hearings may incur additional expenses. The interested party’s counsel or representative, if any, is entitled to receive their fee from the party, as well as compensation for travel expenses and other costs. Witnesses and experts summoned by a party are entitled to compensation for travel expenses, living expenses, and financial loss. For travel expenses and living expenses, witnesses are entitled to receive their compensation in advance from the interested party.
According to the Accident Appeal Board Act, section 14, any expenses paid from state funds, according to HOL, sections 76 and 77, must be paid from Accident Appeal Board funds with the exception of compensation paid to witnesses summoned by the state.
Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) grants everyone the right to a hearing, unless deemed unnecessary on special grounds. The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has elaborated on the grounds for exceptions to oral hearings in its decisions. In multiple decisions regarding social benefits, the ECtHR has found that there was no need for the national court to arrange an oral hearing despite a party’s request because the matter could be decided based on written expert statements and other written materials. The aforementioned decisions have concerned social security benefits, the presentation of evidence for which consisted of written medical statements submitted to the court.
In insurance law practice, the arranging of an oral hearing has been considered clearly unnecessary in cases such as hearing the attending physician as a witness regarding causation between an injury and an occupational accident if the documents already include appropriate and extensive written medical statements sufficient to decide the matter, including the attending physician’s statement. Likewise, hearing a witness regarding a matter that is uncomplicated and brings no new relevant information for the assessment of the matter has been considered to be clearly unnecessary in insurance law practice. Because the appellant may present their views in writing, an oral hearing for the sole purpose of hearing the appellant themselves is usually considered unnecessary.