Certified Specialist, Workers' Compensation, The State Bar of California
Board of Legal Specialization
THE WORKERS’ COMPENSATION APPEALS BOARD
The Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board (the WCAB) was created as an administrative body to determine disputes arising out of contested issues stemming from industrial injury claims. In Southern California, there are multiple offices of the WCAB including San Diego, Santa Ana, Anaheim, and Long Beach, just to name a few. Each office contains a Presiding Judge, multiple Administrative Law judges, an Information and Assistance office, a permanent disability rater, and a support staff to assist in the processing of cases that come before the Board.
A Workers’ Compensation claim begins when a claim form is sent to the employer, who then is required to promptly notify its insurance carrier. Jurisdiction of the WCAB to resolve disputes is invoked with the filing of an Application for Adjudication of Claim with the WCAB. Once filed, the WCAB has the power to resolve disputes and award benefits for as long as necessary to get all issues resolved.
In essence, the WCAB is a court of limited jurisdiction, with a mandate to make sure that injured workers are provided appropriate benefits. The WCAB schedules settlement conferences and, when necessary, trials. It retains the power to subpoena records, to compel witnesses to come before it, to order medical treatment and disability payments, and to issue such other orders as may be necessary to reach a just disposition in a case. However, the WCAB does not get involved in a claim, even after an Application is filed, unless a dispute is properly brought before it, or at such time as an injured employee wishes to informally resolve a claim by some form of settlement. All such resolutions must be approved by a WCAB judge, even when the parties are represented by counsel.
While you are not required to be represented by an attorney to go before the WCAB, the Board does have specific procedural rules and the process of prosecuting a claim is fraught with technical pitfalls that may well confound even attorneys who do not specialize in this area of the law. Even if you do not elect to retain the services of this office we recommend you consult an attorney who is a specialist in this legal field.