While the pandemic brought many positive changes to the California workers’ compensation system, there is one thing that has disappeared: Wi-Fi.
Those who have attended an in-person trial or expedited hearing at the Workers' Compensation Appeals Board in the last few years have discovered that the Wi-Fi signal has gone silent. While this sounds like a trivial complaint, it can actually be quite a large problem, as the pandemic forced most attorneys to go paperless. Going paperless is a good thing in general, but it can be thwarted by the inability to go online and access information needed for that trial or expedited hearing.
For example, a common pretrial question that a judge may ask is, “What is the EAMS number of that exhibit?” While we attorneys do our best to have those handy, sometimes one needs to go online and look that up.
All attorneys aside, pro per applicants and even represented applicants need Wi-Fi to access necessary information for their cases, as questions are bound to arise at trials, expedited hearings and even in-person questions for information and assistance officers. Additionally, most empathetic practitioners can empathize with the applicants who are stuck in the waiting room for hours without Wi-Fi.
For those of us who have phones capable of producing Wi-Fi hotspots, we’ve been able to access Wi-Fi on our computers by using those at the WCAB. But even the hot spot is an imperfect solution, as many WCAB buildings have poor signals in some courtrooms.
To be clear, the poor cellphone signal isn’t the WCAB’s fault. Many moons ago, I was a technical support representative for Verizon Wireless Mobile Web and learned that places like Wall Street often have poor signals due to all those big skyscrapers. Large buildings are simply not conducive to strong cell signals.
Conversely, most of us have had to call a client from a trial to ask for authority to do something, and it’s much easier to do that with Wi-Fi-based calling when one is in a WCAB courthouse with a poor cellular signal.
The rumor mill
I heard through the rumor mill that the Wi-Fi that existed before the pandemic was provided by State Compensation Insurance Fund, and once everyone started working remotely, SCIF pulled the proverbial plug on its wonderful routers.
Fortunately, there is hope. In the last few months, the rumor mill has also informed me that Wi-Fi will be coming back to at least some Southern California WCABs in the near future.
If and when it does return, those of us making in-person appearances at trials and expedited hearings will be grateful to whoever restored that sweet, sweet Wi-Fi.
John P. Kamin is a workers’ compensation defense attorney and equity partner at Bradford & Barthel’s Woodland Hills location. He is WorkCompCentral's former legal editor. This entry from Bradford & Barthel's blog appears with permission.
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