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Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board Issues En Banc Order in Response to COVID-19

March 19, 2020

On March 16, 2020, the California Division of Workers’ Compensation (DWC) and the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board (WCAB) announced that they are limiting workers’ compensation court appearances to protect the health and safety of their staff and the community, in accordance with numerous public health orders suggesting that public gatherings be limited in light of COVID-19. The WCAB followed up that announcement with a March 18, 2020 en banc order, temporarily suspending specific WCAB rules of practice and procedure and announced that the WCAB office in San Francisco will be closing as of March 19, 2020.

Scheduled Hearings

From March 17 through March 20, the DWC will only hear expedited hearings at the district offices. The DWC will continue (postpone) all other hearings and send parties notice of new hearing dates within the next five business days.

From March 23 through April 3,the DWC will continue to hear expedited hearings for all parties that appear at the district offices. The DWC will also hear status conferences, mandatory settlement conferences and priority conferences via the CourtCall telephonic appearance system only. If all parties do not appear via CourtCall, the case will be continued (postponed) and notice will be given.All other hearings will be continued. No trials or lien conferences will be heard during this time.

Filings

From March 17 through April 3, the DWC’s district offices will be closed for filing purposes.All filing deadlines will therefore be extended to Monday, April 6, 2020.

The DWC also will not accept walk-through documents or walk-in filings until the district offices reopen for filing purposes. Workers’ Compensation Judges will focus on reviewing settlement documents and ruling on petitions submitted by the parties during the closure.

The notice states that parties to WC claims may utilize the Department of Industrial Relations’ Electronic Adjudication Management System (EAMS) to file documents online. Parties may also mail settlement documents or petitions to the district office where the case is filed.

The complete notice can be found at:

https://www.dir.ca.gov/DIRNews/2020/2020-18.html

Suspension of Rules

On March 18, 2020, the WCAB issued an en banc order temporarily suspending specific WCAB Rules of Practice and Procedure contained in Title 8 of the California Code of Regulations. This includes rules regarding dismissals for failure to appear, the timeframe for reports from Workers’ Compensation Judges and arbitrators, required signatures and witnesses for Compromise and Release agreements, and service by the WCAB by mail and consent for electronic service.

The en banc order can be found at:

https://www.dir.ca.gov/WCAB/EnBancdecisions2020/COVID-19.pdf

Potential Impact

During the period of temporary closure of the WCAB offices, or other limited service, workers with matters pending before the courts may experience delays in the workers’ compensation claim process. This could impact issue resolution as well as delay approval of claim settlements. For employers, this delay could result in claims taking longer to resolve and a reduction in the ability to resolve and close claims.

Should you have any questions regarding the status of a specific claim, it’s always best to contact a member of Keenan’s claims team. For questions regarding this Briefing or the workers’ compensation system in general, please contact your Keenan Risk Management Analyst.


Keenan & Associates is not a law firm and no opinion, suggestion, or recommendation of the firm or its employees shall constitute legal advice. Clients are advised to consult with their own attorney for a determination of their legal rights, responsibilities and liabilities, including the interpretation of any statute or regulation, or its application to the clients’ business activities.