Workers' Compensation

Voice from the Chair

New Horizons: A Hybrid World with Flexibility

By Jack Goodchild

After almost a year-and-a-half of living with the changes brought on by the Covid-19 Pandemic we are finally seeing some light at the end of a very long tunnel. The pandemic changed our country, the world and our own workers’ compensation system. While some of us are ready to spring back into life like it was before the pandemic, many of us are reticent to do so.  This is because of reasonable fears of recurrence, variants and reluctance to give up some of the good things about the changes we have made both personally and in our legal system.

So, what are the “good things” that came out of the changes brought on by the Pandemic?  Take a minute and  remember what life in our system was like before the Pandemic.

Our courts, while well-intentioned and hard-working, were relatively inefficient, insofar as our collective time and stress loads were concerned.  We might have had a matter which required five minutes or less of a judge’s time.   For this multiple attorneys, lien representatives, etc. had to travel, sometimes for hours, risk traffic jams and accidents and wait for hours while other matters were addressed first, only to face more traffic and stress on the way to their next appearance or to their office.   The same thing applied to doctor and expert witness depositions which often took an entire day when travel was factored in. Certainly, it is much more efficient from both a personal and societal perspective to handle such matters remotely.

Trials on the other hand, raise other issues including credibility, which may require in-person trials.  On the other hand, cross-examination of a rater could easily be done by phone or by use of the Lifesize platform.  In short, while there is no hard and fast rule that we can adopt, going forward we will address all of these and other issues.  Clearly, maintaining flexibility as we progress forward is preferred.  Hopefully, as we enter the next phase, we will incorporate the lessons we have learned in our lives and in our system.

In our personal lives, we have also learned from and changed due to the Pandemic. We have had a chance to slow down, introspect and to consider the ramifications of living in the “rat race” pace we were inured to in the past. By considering these effects, as well as the efficiency of our system, we can move towards a hybrid system with flexibility that serves both the courts, the practitioners, and the applicants in our system in a more humane and efficient manner while maintaining our focus on a just and expedient benefit delivery system.

Thankfully, the California Lawyers Association is already addressing these issues in our overall legal system.  I expect that the wise people directing our system will also seek to preserve the best of what we have learned in the last year and a half while also seeking to restore our live, in-person, activities in a safe and expedient manner. It is my understanding that this process is beginning to happen even as I write this article. By going through this process, we can preserve the best of what we have learned, and we can prepare for future challenges and situations that require flexibility

Our Workers’ Compensation Executive Committee has been working diligently to deal with both the issues raised by the pandemic and with continuing our numerous services to the greater community. Our education committee has been very busy. You can review the multiple upcoming educational offerings as listed on our website and as announced in this newsletter. Our community outreach committee has been active providing virtual education of our community and we are also doing outreach to law schools as part of a CLA project to provide information to law students considering their future careers. Our publications have continued to provide leading edge quality articles of interest to our field of practice. Our committee is active, involved, and productive. We invite the larger community to volunteer to assist us in our endeavors. We are your committee, and we exist due to the volunteer efforts of many fine people who believe as we do that by serving and educating the larger community, we improve our own reputations and that of the members of our field of law in general.

We recently voted, as we do every year to appoint new members to the committee. We will announce the new members after they have been approved by the CLA board of representatives. While the time to apply for this year has passed, if you wish to join the committee, please consider applying next year.

As always, I remind everyone that this is YOUR committee. Reach out, become involved. Volunteer!  And a belated Happy July 4th to everyone.

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