DWC Reopening Public Counters at Various District Offices
After being closed for several months, the Division of Worker’s Compensation (DWC) announced that effective from July 26, 2021, the public counters at all district offices would open. This will facilitate in-person filing, assistance, and questions.
The Department of Industrial Relations had signaled some inclination for reopening, including reopening of the front counters in order to answer questions as well as receive in-person filing. Keep in mind that it is primarily geared toward providing more access to the WCAB for many unrepresented injured workers in the state.
An important question that every Californian, and every worker’s compensation practitioner, including California workers and employees, repeatedly asked is if we will go back to “normal,” and if yes, then when? You probably know that for well over a year, every worker compensation hearing has been either over the phone or via telecommunication companies, such as LifeSize. And nearly every deposition has been over Skype or Zoom or their equivalent.
As a California worker, you will be happy to know that the Return-to-Work Supplement kiosks in the state will also reopen. It is reassuring to know that Assistance and Information officers will be present on-site in most offices.
They will be there to answer questions and provide any other assistance that people may need. However, if you are one of the parties, you should continue to submit documents and records by using the DWC’s e-filing system or JET filing system. This is important as it will help reduce processing times and reduce bottlenecks because of limited DWC in-office staffing.
California’s Economy Reopening
You may know that California as a state officially entered the 2nd phase of the Governor’s 4-phase plan in order to reopen the state’s economy and businesses on May 8, 2020. Also, it is worth noting that local counties in the state were allowed to ease local COVID-19 restrictions less gradually.
Did you know that Phase 2 allows lower-risk businesses in the state to reopen with social distancing guidelines? On the other hand, Phase 3 would allow the reopening of some higher-risk businesses, again with strict social distancing guidelines and regulations observed. Keep in mind that in Phase 4, conventions, concerts, and sporting events, such as basketball and baseball, with a live crowd will reopen. The good news is that majority of the 58 counties in California have already entered Phase 2.
However, many Bay Area counties still remained under stringent shelter in place protocols and opted to take a more measured and cautious approach than the whole state at large. And as of May 18, 2020, even these Bay Area counties are now permitting curbside manufacturers and retailers observing social distancing protocols to conduct business. The decision to open public counters at DWC district counters will help businesses and employees in California.
It is worth noting that with COVID-19 vaccinations slowly approaching “herd immunity” in the state of California, many people would have considered that they would be on the road to return to the halls of the Worker’s Compensation Appeals Board (WCAB), plying their scholarly trade in ties and suits instead of shorts and flip-flops. However, with the dangerous delta variant, perhaps that isn’t to be.
Eureka Office Update
Did you know that the Eureka office is now fully virtual? This was announced formally in the Newsline on April 14, 2021. As a result, all documents and paperwork for worker’s compensation cases in Eureka that you can’t e-file should be mailed in a timely manner to the Santa Rosa office. Note that as Californians start to gradually return to living their lives and businesses, there will be a few changes that constitute a new normal. As you can expect, workers’ compensation procedures and practices will be no exception.
For the time being, all the local (WCABs) Workers’ Compensation Appeals Boards haven’t fully opened, and necessary testimony is still being taken or recorded telephonically. And district offices in the state won’t hold in-person hearings or accept any “walk-through” documents and paperwork at this time.
So, until further formal notice, DWC will continue hearing all mandatory priority conferences, settlement conferences, status conferences telephonically through the assigned judges’ conference telephone lines as announced in Newsline issued on September 9, August 12, May 28, April 3, and April 28, 2020. The same is true for case-in-chief trials, lien trials, lien conferences, Special Adjudication Unit (SAU) trials, as well as expedited hearings. It is best to continue to contact the DWC’s call center in order to obtain assistance through phone at (909) 383-4522.
Greater Need for Worker’s Compensation Lawyers during COVID-19
As a worker, you may know that the COVID-19 health pandemic has had a massive impact on workers’ compensation claims. The novel COVID-19 pandemic has swept across the US as well as the state of California. Although stay-at-home orders did go into effect quite quickly and kept many individuals from going to work, there were still several exceptions to these government orders concerning workers and employees labeled as “essential.”
In general, getting workers’ compensation benefits for a viral illness, such as the coronavirus, can be challenging and tricky. However, you will be happy to know that California has changed the law in these situations to make it easier and quicker for certain COVID-19 workers’ comp claims to be made.
The virus has affected nearly everything from how compensation claims are handled, kinds of claims being filed, various staffing models as well as how the treatment is being provided. Because of the complexity of the situation, working with a worker’s comp attorney makes sense. If you or someone you love has contracted COVID-19 during the course of employment, it is advisable to speak to a worker’s compensation lawyer at Law Offices of James E. Latimer.
Consult With a California Workers’ Compensation Attorney
A competent and experienced workers’ comp lawyer, such as James E. Latimer, will help you navigate the worker’s comp system. For dedicated and effective representation in your workers’ compensation case, contact California reliable workers’ comp lawyers at the Law Offices of James E. Latimer. Get in touch with our office right now to schedule a consultation at 510-444-6555.