“I’ll See You In Court”
The court can be scary – lawyers, a judge, a courtroom, maybe a jury. At least that is what most people picture when they think about what Court is all about.
The movie version of Court is not accurate in the California workers’ compensation system. There is no jury (not since 1917!), and the trial is often done by noon and usually drama-free. The courtrooms are about the size of a large living room.
The Settlement Conference
The first step to getting your dispute with the insurance company resolved is a settlement conference, where you (or your attorney if you have one), can discuss the dispute and attempt to resolve it without a trial. If the issues cannot be resolved, the Judge may decide that a hearing is necessary and require the parties to write down the issues that need to be decided by the Judge, and list the documents and witnesses required to prove or defend the case.
Although the Workers’ Compensation system was initially designed to be informal, it can be complicated. Documents and witnesses not listed at the conference may not be considered by the Judge, and the laws that apply to the dispute can be challenging to understand, let alone apply – even for attorneys.
Then there is the terminology. It seems like virtually everything in the workers’ compensation system has a shorthand acronym. It can make your head spin – even for attorneys. Here is an incomplete list: TTD, PPD, MPN, AME, QME, MMI, WPI, FM, AWW, NCS, MRI, ESI, and the list goes on.
Although there are time limits for a final decision, the reality is that a Judge may require further information and documentation before a final decision is reached. After that, appeals may further delay a final decision.
If all this sounds discouraging, know that the vast majority of issues are negotiated and resolved before a trial is necessary. The key to success is preparation and knowing, knowing the factual record, and the applicable law. Unfortunately, the law has become so complex that the Workers Compensation Appeals Board has found the need to provide information and assistance to injured workers who do not have an attorney to represent them.
If you find yourself in need of some feedback regarding your rights, give us a call at 714-547-5025.
The consultation is always free and confidential.