Workers' Compensation Appeals Board

California Workers Compensation Appeals Board: What You Need to Know

The Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board (WCAB) is the administrating body to adjudicate claims of Injured Workers. consisting of a seven-member, judicial body appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate. It exercises all judicial powers vested in it by the Labor Code. The WCAB has both a main judicial body and local offices throughout the State of California. Here are some things you need to know:

What does the Main Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board Do?

The Main WCAB Office exercises all judicial powers vested by the Labor Code in a reasonable and sound manner and provides guidance and leadership to the workers’ compensation community through case opinions and regulations. The WCAB exercises all judicial powers vested in it by the Labor Code. Its major functions include a review of petitions for reconsideration of decisions by workers’ compensation judges and regulation of the adjudication process by adopting rules of practice and procedure.

What do the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board Offices Do?

Local offices adjudicate individual claims. This includes such issues as law and motion, approval of settlements, and trials. The local office’s s issue orders and awards on cases concerning various issues such as entitlement to compensation, finding of injury as being industrial and whether there has been a wrongful discrimination in violation of Labor Code Section 132a. The local WCAB also adjudicates claims of Serious and Willful Misconduct.

Where are the Local Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board Locations?

There are local offices all throughout California. Here are some of the locations:

Northern California 
  • Fresno
  • Oakland
  • Redding
  • Sacramento
  • Salinas
  • San Francisco
  • San Jose
  • San Luis Obispo
  • Santa Rosa
  • Stockton
Southern California
  • Long Beach
  • Los Angeles
  • Marina Del Rey
  • Oxnard
  • Riverside
  • Pomona
  • Santa Barbara
  • Santa Ana
  • San Diego
  • San Bernardino
  • Van Nuys

Who are the Judges on the Appeals Board?

At Local Offices, there are Presiding Judges and Worker’ Compensation Judges. They are responsible for the administration and handling of individual workers’ compensation cases. As an Injured Worker, contact will be with these individuals.

Who is a Presiding Judge(PJ)?

Per Cal HR, a Presiding Judge supervises the staff and is responsible for the operation of a district office of the WCAB. According to HR, it does not include the judicial decisions of the judges. They are to preside as the judicial officer over hearings under Workers’ Compensation Law and other related work:

  • Plan, organize, coordinate, and supervise the work of the staff
  • Issues orders for writs of attachment and writs of execution; Exercises responsibility for staying, quashing, and recalling such writs
  • Review and analyze petitions, applications, and other requests for proceedings then assigns them for hearing and decision
  • Establish and maintain calendars
  • Confer with administrative officers on policy matters
  • Conduct hearings under the laws pertaining to workers’ compensation and issues decisions
  • Prepares reports

Their experience may be one year of California state service performing the duties of a Workers’ Compensation Judge or five years of experience in the active practice of law, including appellate practice. This experience must either have included or been supplemented by two years in work regularly requiring the interpretation and application of Workers’ Compensation Law.

A Presiding Judge has the knowledge of principles and provisions of the Labor Code pertaining to workers’ compensation insurance and safety and executes the following:

  • Leading court decisions in California and the United States Supreme Court on the subject of California Workers’ Compensation Law
  • Principles of personnel management, supervision, and training
  • Conduct of proceedings in a Court Trial, rules of evidence governing such proceedings, and laws relating to serving notices
  • Taking depositions, and issuing subpoenas
  • Medical, physiological, anatomical, and occupational terminology in relation to cases of industrial injury
  • Purposes, organization, and procedure of the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board and Division of Workers’ Compensation
  • Procedure before the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board
  • Legal research methods
  • A manager’s/supervisor’s responsibility for promoting equal opportunity in hiring and employee development and promotion, and for maintaining a work environment that is free of discrimination and harassment

What is a Worker’s Compensation Judge?

Per CalHR, a Workers’ Compensation Judge conducts judicial proceedings at which evidence, oral and written, is produced by adverse parties to disputed claims arising under the Labor Code provisions pertaining to workers’ compensation insurance and safety; to make decisions upon the evidence presented. The typical tasks of a WCJ are to act as the presiding officer in judicial proceedings, instructs the parties and witnesses, as occasion arises, as to their rights.

Related Work:
  • Administers oaths to and questions witnesses;
  • Rules on the admissibility of oral and documentary evidence;
  • Prepares a memorandum containing a digest of the testimony produced, together with a discussion of the evidence under the issues framed and Findings of Fact and the conclusions of law in support of the decision in each case;
  • Advises members of the public on questions they may ask as to their rights under the Labor Code of the State of California and assists them in interpreting the provisions pertaining to workers’ compensation insurance and safety
  • Legal research.
Qualifications:
  • Being an active member of the State Bar and either Licensed to practice law in California for five or more years
  • Minimum two years of which shall be as an attorney serving on the staff of the Division of Workers’ Compensation or Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board in a class with a level of responsibility not less than that of an Industrial Relations Counsel I.
  • Licensed and experience in the active practice of law* in California for five or more years, in litigation before a trial court or quasi-judicial body involving the interests of adverse parties,
  • Minimum of three years of which shall be in workers’ compensation law or Licensed and experience in the active practice of law in California for five or more years,
  • Experience in workers compensation law
  • Minimum three years as a presiding officer in a judicial or quasi-judicial body
  • Member of a court conducting judicial proceedings; or an administrative body conducting quasi-judicial proceedings; or as a hearing officer
Knowledge Base:
  • Principles and provisions of the Labor Code pertaining to workers’ compensation insurance and safety
  • Leading court decisions in California and the United States Supreme Court on the subject of California Workers’ Compensation Law
  • Conduct of proceedings in a trial court, rules of evidence governing such proceedings, and laws relating to serving notices
  • Taking depositions, and issuing subpoenas; medical, physiological, anatomical, and occupational terminology in relation to cases of industrial injury
  • Purposes and organization of the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board and Division of Workers’ Compensation;
  • Procedure before the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board; legal research methods and performing such research; and the underlying philosophy of workers’ compensation legislation

WCJ’s have the ability to perform legal research; conduct hearings in a manner that will obtain all pertinent evidence and secure the confidence and respect of all parties; analyze and appraise legal problems, and apply legal principles and precedents to particular sets of facts; make accurate summaries of evidence and prepare appropriate findings, awards, orders, and other legal documents relating to compensation litigation; analyze situations accurately and adopt an effective course of action; and communicate effectively at a level required to perform the essential functions of the job.

The special personal characteristics of a WCJ is a willingness to travel, impartiality, judicial temperament, self-motivation, and tact.

What is an Information and Assistance Officer?

Most local WCAB offices have an Information and Assistance Officer. I & A Officers provide services to injured workers, employers, and others. A primary duty of an I&A Officer is to help injured workers who don’t have attorneys navigate the workers’ compensation system.

What if I need the I & A Officer?

You should contact the front desk of the WCAB and request assistance from the I & A Officer. They will assist in you making contact.

What is the Disability Evaluation Unit?

Per the State of California, the Disability Evaluation Unit (DEU) determines permanent disability ratings by evaluating medical descriptions of physical and mental impairment. These are the individuals who rate the individual report. They are highly trained and skilled at handling these matters. DEU also calculates commutations which are used to accelerate payments for either the Applicant’s indemnity award or attorney’s fees.

These determinations are used by the Workers’ Compensation Judge, the Insurance Claims Administrators, and the applicant’s Attorney to determine permanent disability benefits.

There are three types of ratings:
  1. Formal, requested by the Judge
  2. Consultative, at the request of an attorney, DWC Information and Assistance Officer
  3. Summary ratings which are done on non-litigated cases at the request of a claims administrator or injured worker.

If I am having problems at the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board (WCAB), who should I contact?

At a local WCAB, I would recommend that you contact the front desk initially. Most likely, they will refer you to the Presiding Judge to address your concerns. if further assistance is needed, contact the Law Offices of Edward J. Singer

With more than 25 years of expertise in defending workers’ rights, the Law Offices of Edward J. Singer, A Professional Law Corporation, is here to assist. If you have any questions concerning your rights, please do not hesitate to contact our offices. Please contact us today concerning any workers’ compensation questions or issues.