Grinberg: Emergency Med-Legal Regs Extended to Mid-October 2021
Tuesday, March 16, 2021 | 0
One of the very, very thin silver linings of the lockdowns we’re still slogging through has been the compulsory trial of remote litigation and work for the workers’ comp bar. For the last year, depositions have been done almost exclusively via videoconference, hearings over the phone, and trials, when they happen at all, through LifeSize video.
Even some of the medical-legal evaluations have been conducted via telemedicine, although that remains an issue as the parties don’t always agree about whether a video evaluation would be acceptable: sometimes for reasons of safety, sometimes for reasons of accuracy and, unfortunately, sometimes out of tactical concerns.
Well, the Department of Industrial Relations recently announced that emergency regulations pertaining to med-legal evaluations and reporting are to stay in place through mid-October.
As “plugged in” as I imagine myself to be, though, there is no indication yet whether the Workers' Compensation Appeals Board will continue to hold remote hearings and, if so, for how long. To the extent that WCDefenseCA has any influence on such decisions, or even influence on the people who make such decisions, I would urge we continue on with remote litigation as we have been.
Employers and insurers are reaping significant benefits and would continue to do so: Bills for travel time are no longer an issue, since most attorneys waive the travel time from their kitchen table to their guestroom/home-office/box of crackers holding up a laptop on the passenger seat of a car.
The hearings themselves are taking significantly less time, as lack of preparation is not being tolerated like it was when we appeared in person. Further, your favorite defense attorneys can now take a hearing in Salinas and Santa Rosa in the same morning, so issues are resolved much faster.
Overall, in my estimation, it is a big win: The defense attorneys can now accomplish the same if not more, faster, while generating a smaller bill.
What’s your experience? Are we happy to litigate from our homes? Or are we pining to breathe the air of the WCAB once more?
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.