The California Worker’s Compensation System allows for parties to conduct remote court appearances. This allows certain parties to appear telephonically. This article is intended to discuss the nature of telephonic representation. A Party’s employment of telephonic representation can have some advantages as well as disadvantages within the Workers’ Compensation System.
Is Telephonic Representation Ordinary?
Yes. Telephonic representation is not part of the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board system. There is nothing in the Labor Code concerning it. Rather, it is an outside vendor who both provides the infrastructure to allow for it as well as administrate it. The WCAB partners with Courtcall which provides the system to allow for remote court appearances and telephonic representation. Parties employing Courtcall must pay a fee to use the service.
Why Do Attorneys Use CourtCall?
Courtcall allows for attorneys or representatives to save time. Courtcall can allow a party to avoid unnecessary travel, extreme traffic and harsh weather conditions. For example, during certain times of the year, some highways in California may be closed to normal traffic and prevent an in-person appearance. This can occur during winter time when roads can be closed due to snowfall.
CourtCall can reduce the billable hours for the appearance and save money for the clients who are paying hourly fees for their attorneys to appear. This usually applies to attorneys who represent defense clients. This can also be great for attorneys who are not allowed to bill for travel or who are working on a flat fee arrangement. CourtCall can remove the travel time from the appearance and allows the attorney/representative to work on other matters. It also allows for more flexibility in physical appearances. For example, an attorney can make a telephonic appearance at the San Diego WCAB in the morning, and make a telephonic appearance at the Eureka WCAB in the afternoon.
What is the Purpose of Telephonic Representation?
The CourtCall system allows for lawyers and representatives to make routine workers’ compensation appearances by telephone from their offices, homes or other convenient locations. See DIR. The participants of telephonic representation are required to be on a “landline” and have access to a fax machine.
Is CourtCall Available for All Workers’ Compensation Courts and Judges?
No. Not all Workers’ Compensation Judges allow for CourtCall. Many, however, participate. The nature and extent of their participation in a particular Courtroom for Courtcalls depends upon the Judge. The parties seeking to use telephonic representation must check in advance whether they are able to do so.
What Hearings Can You Appear by CourtCall?
Per the DWC (Division of Workers’ Compensation) only Mandatory Settlement Conferences, Status Conferences, and Priority Conferences are eligible for telephonic representation. CourtCall is not available for Trials, Expedited Hearings or for hearings with an unrepresented injured worker. It has only been used on occasion for Lien Conferences.
How Does Courtcall Work?
Per the DIR, the CourtCall staff coordinates and facilitates the telephonic appearances. The calling party may speak to the Judge in the presence of the other parties. They can also speak privately and directly to other parties outside of the Judge’s hearing. Fax machines at the district offices coordinate the circulation of documents among the parties.
Is there a Fee for Using CourtCall?
Yes. Courtcall is a private company and there is a charge for the service.
What is Your Experience Using CourtCall?
Overall, I have found the use of Courtcall has been a very positive experience.
At times, I have had calendar conflicts involving significant travel. Courtcall has helped me resolve these conflicts and make both appearances. Also, it has saved my offices’ considerable travel time. The saved time can be used to work on the cases rather than being stuck in traffic.
The results from the appearances have been quite satisfactory. I do not feel that the results would have been different with a physical appearance.
While I prefer not to make Courtcall a primary way of making appearances, I continue to employ it as a tool to allow for my offices to maintain quality representation. Courtcall allows my offices to prevent an unnecessary delay to an injured worker’s case. For instance, before Courtcall, I would have to request a continuance from the court on particular matters. Now, the need for certain continuances has been eliminated.
How Do the Judge’s Handle Courtcall Matters?
Based upon my experience, Judges have acted extremely professional in their handling of Courtcall matters. An Injured Worker should not be too concerned that a party on their case is appearing via Courtcall.
Are There Any Disadvantages in Using CourtCall?
Yes. While it had nothing to do with the actual case, there are many times that an attorney or representative will run into an attorney or representative on another case at the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board. These incidental meetings many times result in settlement or progress being made on other cases.
Should I Be Concerned That A Party Is Appearing by CourtCall?
Yes. I would recommend a heightened awareness on behalf of an Injured Worker appearing on a matter in which CourtCall is being employed by one of the parties.
If there is settlement authority, the paperwork should be provided to you at the hearing to sign and be submitted to the Workers’ Compensation Judge for approval. There is no excuse concerning the circulation of the documents. The facsimile machine provided by CourtCall allows for the immediate circulation of documents.
In sum, there should be an insistence that your matter is treated in the same manner as if the party appearing by CourtCall was appearing in person.
Where Can I Get Legal Advice?
If you would like a free consultation regarding workers’ compensation, please contact the Law Offices of Edward J. Singer, a Professional Law Corporation. They have been helping people in Central and Southern California deal with their worker’s compensation cases for 26 years. Contact us today for more information.