By John Parente
Chair of the California Lawyers Association, Workers’ Compensation Section Executive Committee
It is hard to believe that we are already in April. The Workers’ Compensation Executive Committee through its publications strives to bring its members the latest developments in our field of practice. We accomplish this goal through the publication of our ever-popular Quarterly and the monthly eNews.
Probably the biggest event in March other than the DWC conferences is the fact that the Commissioners delivered an En Banc decision in which they rescinded Misc. No. 260 which temporarily suspended WCAB Rule 10500(b)(6) regarding witness signatures; Misc. No. 261 which temporarily suspended WCAB Rule 10940(b) regarding electronic filing of documents and Misc. No. 266 which temporarily suspended WCAB Rule 10789(c) regarding walk-through assignment hours.
The most impactful of the rules is that of witness signatures on settlement documents. When we had live hearings, there were plenty of potential witnesses available at the local Board. We now have remote hearings and this clearly places an additional burden on applicant’s and applicant’s attorneys. The other question that has been raised by many is whether electronic signatures will be accepted? We have all accepted the fact that many legal documents today are signed through DocuSign. Will the Appeals Board accept such modern methods? Will they amend WCAB Rule 10500(b)(6) to comport with our technology-driven practices? We will have to wait and see. I do not expect Status Conferences to ever be live again. I wonder if the DWC will go back to live MSCs?
In my many years as a workers compensation practitioner, I have experienced many rule changes many of which seemed impossible, at first, to implement. Yet, no matter how difficult the changes were, we always found a way to make the system work. Adapting to the new rules, we worked together to help our workers’ compensation system evolve and improve. This is what is wonderful and unique about our area of the law.
This issue of the eNews discusses some additional timely developments in our practice, such as the recent court decision on Prop 22 and some information about an exciting upcoming webinar our education committee has planned. I hope you enjoy reading this month’s edition of the eNews!