At the 2019 California Self-Insurers Association Annual Conference a panel discussed strategies for settling claims with injured workers’ that do not have attorney representation (pro-se). The speakers were:
- Julianna Cipraino, Law offices of Kollitz & Kollitz
- Lisa Kollitz – Law offices of Kollitz & Kollitz
- Tristan Juan – Information & Assistance officer, Division of Workers’ Compensation, California Department of Industrial Relations
- Stella Wolfe – Information & Assistance officer, Division of Workers’ Compensation, California Department of Industrial Relations
- Cathey Jackson – Albertson’s Holdings/Safeway (moderator)
DWC established the Information and Assistance (I&A) program to provide information to all parties regarding the rights, benefits, and obligations under the workers’ compensation laws. I&A also prepares, publishes and updates guides to the California workers’ compensation system for employees and employers. I&A Officers will assist in prompt resolution of misunderstandings and disputes without the need for formal hearings. Their goal is to expedite the handling of claims as much as possible. I&A officers can mediate disputes regarding provisions of the workers’ compensation statue and if this does not resolve the dispute they will issue a recommendation that becomes part of the record in the event of further litigation.
When settling a claim with an unrepresented worker, make sure the medical reports reflect what you are trying to accomplish. For example, if there are positive objective test findings or authorized surgeries a zero percent award will not be approved. Non-industrial findings on a claim that was previously accepted by the carrier will also likely not be approved by the judge.
- With issues of apportionment, make sure you are getting a Summary Rating Determination using the proper form. Submit all relevant medical records and include a job description.
- Make sure the future medical treatment allocation is supported by the medical records and the treatment costs the last several years. Ensure you have a proper final Permanent Disability report including a formal rating report.
- If the applicant is non-English speaking all documents must be signed by a certified interpreter.
- Make sure the signature on the settlement documents are all completed, and check to make sure they match any other documents in the claim file that the injured worker may have signed.
- The judge will likely call the injured worker if they do not attend the hearing. Make sure they are aware of this and know to expect it.