Labor Code § 4062.2 establishes the procedure to be followed "[w]henever a comprehensive medical evaluation is required to resolve any dispute arising out of an injury or a claimed injury occurring on or after January 1, 2005, and the employee is represented by an attorney." A party may request a panel of qualified medical evaluators (QME panel) the first working day that's at least 10 days after the date of mailing a request for a medical evaluation pursuant to LC 4060, or the first working day that's at least 10 days after the date of mailing an objection pursuant to LC 4061 or LC 4062.
On Aug. 1, 2023, the 2nd District Court of Appeal issued its decision in Earley v. WCAB invalidating the long-standing practice of the Workers' Compensation Appeals Board (WCAB) to grant petitions for reconsideration without first deciding whether reconsideration is warranted. The court held that grant-for-study orders violated Labor Code § 5908.5. But it also held that the WCAB is not required to issue a final ruling on the merits within 60 days. This case was discussed in detail in our previous article.
On Aug. 1, 2023, the 2nd District Court of Appeal issued its decision in Earley v. WCAB invalidating the long-standing practice of the Workers' Compensation Appeals Board (WCAB) to grant petitions for reconsideration without first deciding whether reconsideration is warranted. It held that pursuant to Labor Code § 5908.5, the WCAB must state in detail the reasons for its decision to grant reconsideration and the evidence that supports it. But it also held that the WCAB is not required to issue a final ruling on the merits within 60 days.
The Labor Code describes different procedures for requesting a panel of qualified medical evaluators (QMEs). Labor Code § 4062.1 controls the procedure by which parties may obtain a medical evaluation to address a disputed issue pursuant to LC 4060, LC 4061 and LC 4062 when the employee is not represented by an attorney. LC 4062.2 establishes the procedure when an employee is represented by an attorney.
Pursuant to LC 4062.1(b), either party may request a QME panel per LC 4060, LC 4061 and LC 4062 by submitting the form prescribed by the administrative director requesting the medical director to assign a panel of three QMEs. In unrepresented cases, the California Code of Regulations § 30(a)(1) states that for disputes covered by LC 4060, the requesting party must attach the claims administrator's notice that the claim was denied or a copy of the claims administrator's request for an examination to determine compensability. For disputes covered by LC 4061 or LC 4062, CCR 30(a)(2) states that "[I]f the requesting party is the claims administrator, the claims administrator shall attach a written objection indicating the identity of the primary treating physician, the date of the primary treating physician's report that is the subject of the objection and a description of the medical determination that requires a comprehensive medical-legal report."
Employees have the right to file workers' compensation claims when they contract COVID-19 as a result of their employment. Workers' compensation is the exclusive remedy for an employee's COVID-19 claim.
Generally, the exclusive remedy doctrine bars not only civil claims against an employer by an injured worker, but also extends to claims brought by all others that are collateral to or derivative of the employee's injury. This is known as the derivative injury rule.
It has long been recognized that an employee's ability to participate in vocational retraining is a significant factor that must be considered in assessing the worker's permanent disability. (LeBoeuf v. WCAB (1983) 48 CCC 587, 597.) An employee's inability to compete in the open labor market could support an award of permanent total disability. Even though vocational rehabilitation was repealed and replaced with the supplemental job displacement benefit, an employee still can rebut a scheduled rating by establishing that he or she was not amenable to rehabilitation. (Ogilvie v. WCAB (2011) 76 CCC 624.) That's commonly done with evidence from vocational experts.
It is not uncommon for a defendant to overpay permanent disability (PD) benefits. An overpayment might occur for several reasons. The defendant might not receive the physician's report declaring the applicant permanent and stationary until long after the evaluation. Or a defendant simply might make a mistake and pay more PD than required.
Labor Code § 4909 states, "Any payment, allowance, or benefit received by the injured employee ... [that] was not then due and payable ... shall not, in the absence of any agreement, be an admission of liability for compensation on the part of the employer, but any such payment, allowance, or benefit may be taken into account by the appeals board in fixing the amount of the compensation to be paid." LC 4909 is widely understood as empowering the Workers' Compensation Appeals Board (WCAB) with discretion to grant or deny credit for overpayments.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom has ended the COVID-19 state of emergency in California. While it was in effect, however, the workers' compensation system was subject to numerous changes and disruptions. The Workers' Compensation Appeals Board (WCAB) moved toward remote hearings, and Gov. Newsom issued an executive order extending specified time limits established in the Labor Code and administrative regulations.
One of the limits not extended, either by executive order, emergency regulation or court order, was the time limit for an injured employee to use the supplemental job displacement benefit (SJDB) voucher. Pursuant to Labor Code § 4658.7(g), "The voucher shall expire two years after the date the voucher is furnished to the employee, or five years after the date of injury, whichever is later. The employee shall not be entitled to payment or reimbursement of any expenses that have not been incurred and submitted with appropriate documentation to the employer prior to the expiration date."
"Sullivan on Comp" resolves to be the most comprehensive treatise on California workers' compensation. Accordingly, its authors strive to include every relevant case.
Different types of cases cited in "Sullivan on Comp" are weighted differently. Decisions from the California Supreme Court and published opinions from the California Courts of Appeal are binding on the Workers' Compensation Appeals Board and its judges. If possible, practitioners should cite those cases to support an argument.
Generally, an employer must deny a claim within 90 days to avoid a presumption that it's compensable. Labor Code 5402(b)(1) states, "If liability is not rejected within 90 days after the date the claim form is filed under Section 5401, the injury shall be presumed compensable under this division." Once the presumption attaches, it can be rebutted only by evidence that could not have been obtained with the exercise of reasonable diligence within the 90-day period. (SCIF v. WCAB (Welcher) (1995) 60 CCC 717.)
In Rodriguez v. WCAB (1994) 59 CCC 857, however, the Court of Appeal held that an employer is not required to issue a denial letter within the 90-day period to effectively deny the claim. In Rodriguez, the employer sent a denial letter on the 89th day following the filing of a claim form, and the applicant did not receive it until the 96th day. The applicant asserted that the denial letter had to be received within the 90-day period to be a sufficient denial pursuant to LC 5402(b). The Court of Appeal rejected that argument.