If you’ve received a notice of hearing for your workers’ compensation claim, this means someone requested a judge at the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board get involved to assist in resolving a dispute. You, your attorney, the insurance company, the attorney for the insurance carrier or another party can request a hearing.
WHEN DOES A WORKERS’ COMPENSATION HEARING TAKE PLACE?
A hearing can only take place once an Application for Adjudication has been filed with the WCAB. An Application for Adjudication formally gets your claim for workers’ compensation benefits within the WCAB system, generating a case number and allowing things to be heard by a judge. Once a case number is created and issued to the parties, any party in interest can file a declaration of readiness to proceed to a number of different hearings depending on the particular issue.
An injured worker needs to keep an eye out for notice of hearing regarding the following types of pre-trial hearings that can take place before the WCAB.
PROCEED TO A STATUS CONFERENCE
When a party files a declaration of readiness to proceed to a status conference, they are generally trying to get an update on the case. Perhaps there has been no activity on the matter, or there has been a period of time that has gone by without a response from one party. A status conference basically serves as an opportunity for the parties to meet and confer at the WCAB to keep the case moving. If you’re represented by an attorney, you may not need to be present at a status conference. It is recommended you discuss with your counsel prior to a status conference whether your appearance is required.
A status conference may be requested whether a claim is accepted or denied, however, a priority conference may be preferred when a case is denied. A priority conference is a type of status conference that cannot be taken off calendar, meaning hearings will be scheduled periodically to ensure the parties are moving forward with obtaining evidence and the claim remains on track to be adjudicated, if necessary.
MANDATORY SETTLEMENT CONFERENCE
Unlike a status conference, all parties must be present for a mandatory settlement conference (“MSC”), hence the ‘mandatory’ language. A MSC takes place when one party believes all necessary information has been discovered to move forward on a judge hearing an issue. If the parties are unable to resolve the issue either by agreement or settlement and if the judge agrees this issue is ready to be heard for a decision, the judge will close discovery. If discovery is closed, this means no further information/evidence may be obtained that will be admissible for the disputed issue and a trial date will be scheduled.
A mandatory settlement conference is the most common hearing at the WCAB because it can accomplish more things than other hearings. Whether a dispute involves medical treatment, benefits, reimbursement requests, change of doctor, credits, etc. these can all be addressed at the time of the MSC. Thus, an injured worker’s presence at the MSC is important to make decisions regarding resolving these issues or to provide authority to the attorney to settle or perhaps set for trial disputes that cannot be worked out.
An MSC may be requested whether a claim is accepted or denied and should be reserved for the instances where the injured worker believes they have all the evidence necessary to prove their position to a judge or are ready to settle the dispute(s).
EXPEDITED WORKERS’ COMPENSATION HEARING
An expedited hearing can be requested only when a case is accepted, and benefits owed to the injured worker are in dispute. Expedited hearings are generally reserved for issues regarding medical treatment which may be denied or delayed on an active case or where disability benefits, like temporary disability, are being denied or delayed. Because these issues are limited in scope, a judge at the WCAB should be able to hear the issue in a trial setting in approximately 1-2 hours. Expedited hearings are usually calendared within 30 days of the party’s request.
Since an expedited hearing may involve presenting evidence and testimony in the matter to an administrative law judge at the WCAB , an injured worker’s presence is typically required. Oftentimes, the particular issue being disputed will be resolved at the time of the expedited hearing and the presence of the injured worker may provide authority to agree to a resolution.
CONTACT US FOR WORKERS’ COMPENSATION ASSISTANCE
If you got summoned for a workers’ compensation hearing in San Diego, The Law Office of Matthew Russellcan help. We are a workers’ compensation law firm dedicated to helping San Diego residents understand and win workers’ compensation claims and cases. Give us a call at (619) 544-1506 with any questions.