In California, the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board has local offices where Injured Workers have their claims adjudicated. The California Highway Patrol provides services to the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board. This article will discuss the CHP, why they provide services to the WCAB, and why there is a need for the CHP to be present.
What is the California Highway Patrol? Why are They Providing Services to the WCAB?
The California Highway Patrol was created in 1929, to provide uniform traffic law enforcement throughout the state. Their role is to assure safe, convenient, and efficient transportation of people and goods on our highway system as being their primary purpose. In 1995, there was a merger with the California State Police for which the CHP’s the areas of responsibility now include protection of state property and employees, the Governor and other dignitaries.
The Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board is part of the California Department of Industrial Relations. Therefore, Judges, Court Reporters, Secretaries, Information Assistance Officers, Disability Unit Evaluators, and their Clerical Staffs, are all state employees. As a result, the CHP has the duty to provide them protection.
Why is it necessary to have Law Enforcement Protection at the WCAB?
First, before going into this, please be advised that most times the WCAB is an extremely safe place. All parties involved behave wonderfully and work in a cooperative manner to resolve Injured Worker’s issues. The Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board is part of the system which is designed to provide benefits to injured workers in an expeditions manner, In general, we all get along. The WCAB, throughout the State, however, handles an extremely large amount of litigation. In light of this large amount of litigation, given the odds, there have been times at which the WCAB has been in need of security services.
What Makes the WCAB a Place in Need of Protection?
Litigation always has a level of contentiousness. Tempers may flare. This contentiousness can come from anywhere at the WCAB. It can come from Attorneys. Injured Workers, Hiring Representatives, Lien Representatives, and even Judges.
There are injured workers who are at their wit’s end who may act out of frustration. There are injured workers who prior to their injury were pre-disposed to violent behavior. There are injured workers who get caught up in the moment because they are under a lot of pressure. It is understandable how they feel. We, as the workers’ compensation community, however, while understanding this, need to work on not allowing this conduct to get out of hand.
What is a California Highway Patrol Officer like at the WCAB?
At the WCAB, California Highway Patrol Officers come in full uniform. They have their duty belt and all of the weapons they would normally carry performing their Police Officer Functions. The WCAB is an assignment for the Officers. Other times, the CHP officers assigned to the WCAB are assigned to perform other CHP duties such as patrolling the highways. In one of my most embarrassing moments, I was ticketed on the Highway by an officer who regularly had WEAB duty.
The CHP Officers who are located at the WCAB are both friendly and professional. Do not feel that you cannot approach them. They are more than happy to address your concerns if you approach them.
What do the CHP Officers Do at the WCAB? Are they located at every WCAB?
The CHP officers will patrol the building. They also may be attending various hearings as a presence at the WCAB. This can be any for anything from a Status Conference, a Mandatory Settlement Conference, Expedited Hearing, and Trials. Usually, the Workers Compensation Judge or one of the parties will request their appearance.
Please note that only certain WCAB offices have CHP on-site during the day. Other WCABs, who do not have an on-site CHP presence, will need to report to the CHP office to bring an Officer over.
What Does the CHP Advise Individuals in State Offices to Do?
The CHP advise Individuals in state offices to report all crimes to the CHP; if they notice a suspicious person to remember the description and call the CHP to investigate; if you feel the suspicious person could become violent to not hesitate to call the CHP. Also, workers are advised to maintain a distance from the individual and, when you feel threatened to call other staff or a supervisor to assist.
If You See a Problem at the WCAB, What Should You Do?
If you can see the CHP officer, make contact with them and they will assist. Otherwise, it is recommended that you contact the front office of the WCAB to address your concern. You may need to speak to the Presiding Judge. The CHP asks people to be aware of the suspicious persons, questionable actions or dangerous conditions.
Has Anything Ever Happened at the WCAB?
Yes. There has been a number of things that have happened at the WCAB. These are the ones I have been aware of since 1992. Again, please note that these are aberrations. They include a Judge who was arrested for sexual misconduct. A Judge who threw files. A Judge who made physical contact with an attorney. Also, there was an attorney and a lien claimant who broke out in a fistfight in a hearing room. There was an injured worker who shot herself. There was an injured worker who brought a gun to the WCAB and was subdued by a WCJ. There was a client who stabbed a Defense Attorney with a knife. Note: the fact that actual violence has occurred at the WCAB has required the WCAB to take any security issues very seriously.
Does CHP help?
Yes. As noted, if called upon, when Judges or Attorneys realize that there is a situation in which problems can arise, the CHP can be contacted in advance and apprised of the situation and make their presence known. I have seen them pat down individuals if necessary. They do an excellent job maintaining proper behavior of the parties.
What If I Need Advice?
If you would like a free consultation regarding your workers’ compensation claim, 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 workers’ compensation cases for 26 years. Contact us today for more information.