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Industry Insights

Grinberg: Parts of WCAB Reopening in Person

  • State: California

The question that is asked over and over by every Californian, and, of course, every workers’ compensation practitioner, is if we are going back to “normal” and if so, then when? For well over a year now, every hearing has been either over the phone or via LifeSize, and almost every deposition has been over Zoom or its equivalent.

Gregory Grinberg

Gregory Grinberg

With vaccinations approaching “herd immunity” in California, one would have thought that we would be on the road to return to the grand halls of the Workers' Compensation Appeals Board, plying our scholarly trade in suits and ties rather than shorts and flip-flops. 

But with the delta variant, perhaps that is not to be. Further, after doing this for over a year, attorneys, judges and clients have all seen the benefit of a relatively remote system.

For example, defense attorneys no longer have to bill their clients for travel time, since the travel from bedroom to kitchen to living room is often waived as a professional courtesy, given how generous defense attorneys are. Further, applicants' attorneys never got to bill for travel time to the WCAB, but they can now represent their clients in more than one venue each morning and use that travel time to prepare their cases and counsel their clients.

The judges too, I imagine, are benefiting from not having to brave the traffic to and from work and can spend more of their precious hours adjudicating panel disputes and utilization review litigation over $27.35 tissue boxes.

The Department of Industrial Relations has signaled some inclination to reopen, given that as of today, parts of the WCAB venues will reopen, including the front counters to answer questions and receive in-person filing. This is, of course, primarily geared at providing more access to the WCAB for unrepresented injured workers. 

For now, at least, all hearings and trials continue to be conducted over the phone and LifeSize, but I am throwing my weight into the camp of wanting things to remain as they are. 

Gregory Grinberg is managing partner of Gale, Sutow & Associates’ S.F. Bay South office and a certified specialist in workers’ compensation law. This post is reprinted with permission from Grinberg’s WCDefenseCA blog.

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