STRESS AND INJURED WORKERS: INJURED WORKERS WITH DIFFICULTIES POST WORK-INJURY AND WORKERS’ COMPENSATION: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

This article is to discuss injured Workers’ stressors and a recent study on the matter. Prior to reviewing the study, I took it upon myself to list the stressors based upon my 28 years of representing Injured workers. The following is my assessment of stressors for Injured Workers while they are pursuing their claims are as follows:

Dealing with medical facilities and doctors
Being out of work
Dealing with your employer
Dealing with insurance
Dealing with attorneys
Dealing with litigation
Dealing with the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board

Wow! Injured Workers have a lot of stressors!

As I indicated, a study was recently done which sheds some additional light on the stressors of injured workers. Is my assessments correct? Are there other items of concern?

Are Injured Workers Stressed Out?

Yes. The study found that the “[t]he prevalence of psychological distress among workers’ compensation claimants is high.” Collie, A., Sheehan, L., Lane, T.J. et al. Psychological Distress in Workers’ Compensation Claimants: Prevalence, Predictors and Mental Health Service Use. J Occup Rehabil 30, 194–202 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10926-019-09862-1

What Did the Study Find as Being Stressors?

Severe psychological distress, being off work, worse general health and requiring support during claim were most strongly associated with greater odds of service use. Collie, A., Sheehan, L., Lane, T.J. et al. Psychological Distress in Workers’ Compensation Claimants: Prevalence, Predictors and Mental Health Service Use. J Occup Rehabil 30, 194–202 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10926-019-09862-1

Are Injured Workers more stressed out than other People?

Yes. According to the Study, it was found. Collie, A., Sheehan, L., Lane, T.J. et al. Psychological Distress in Workers’ Compensation Claimants: Prevalence, Predictors and Mental Health Service Use. J Occup Rehabil 30, 194–202 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10926-019-09862-1

What Were the Factors that the Study Found as Stressful?

The study found “being off work, poor general health, low work ability, financial stress, stressful interactions with healthcare providers and having diagnosed mental health conditions had the strongest associations with presence of psychological distress Collie, A., Sheehan, L., Lane, T.J. et al. Psychological Distress in Workers’ Compensation Claimants: Prevalence, Predictors and Mental Health Service Use. J Occup Rehabil 30, 194–202 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10926-019-09862-1

One additional item that came out of the study that caught me by surprise that Injured Workers with prior psychological issues are susceptible to increased stress.

Can an Injured Worker Claim This Stress as Part of Their Claim?

With changes in the law, psychiatric injury claims are limited. Further, stress resulting from litigation is mostly considered as non-industrial. In certain limited facts, stress may be claimed. It is a factual inquiry.

Is There Case Law Re: Stress from Litigation?

Yes. The Courts have found that a psychiatry injury caused as a result of the litigation process is not work-related. Rodriguez v. Workers’ Comp. Appeals Bd. (1994) 21 Cal.App.4th 1747 [27 Cal.Rptr.2d 93]. There are some limited exceptions. See Patrick v. Marina City Club, 2010 Cal. Wrk. Comp. P.D. LEXIS 19 (carrier misconduct as the basis for stress)

What Should An Injured Worker Do?

Injured Workers should approach matter on multiple levels. One level is to seek medical attention and/or counseling for one’s stress. Another level is to address the situations that are causing the stress. This can include changing doctors, getting an attorney, addressing the employment situation is a substantial way and perhaps opening up to a friend or family member to get this stress off their chest. Also, if you are unrepresented, contacting the Information and Assistance Officer at the local WCAB may be helpful. Also, your company may may have an Employee Assistance Program which can help as well.

In sum, if an Injured Worker is having stress, there is help and solutions out there. Don’t try to go it alone.

What if I Need Advice?

If you would like a free consultation regarding workers’ compensation, please contact the Law Offices of Edward J. Singer, a Professional Law Corporation. We have been helping people in Central and Southern California deal with their workers’ compensation cases for 27 years. Contact us today for more information.

CALIFORNIA FIREFIGHTERS AND WORKERS’ COMPENSATION: FIRE FIGHTERS, WORK INJURIES AND THE MOST RECENT RAND STUDY: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

California Firefighters are tasked with some of the most difficult jobs.   California is perhaps the Forest Fire Capitol of the United States or even the World!  Firefighters provide a vital services in ensuring that we live in safety.

In performing their duties, Firefighters get hurt and have industrial claims.   California Firefighters’ work injuries have been studied by the Rand Corporation and they have prepared a recent report. The study is entitled The Frequency and Economic Impact of Musculoskeletal Disorders for California Firefighters: Trends and Outcomes of the Past Decade, Dworsky, Seabury, and Broten.

This article will address the most recent Rand Corporation Study and what it means to Firefighter and their careers with respect to their work injuries.

What Is the Rand Corporation? What Did It Study?

Rand Corporation is commonly known as a “think tank.”   According to Rand, it “was established over 70 years ago to strengthen public policy through research and analysis. Over seven decades, our research teams have answered the difficult questions and generated actionable insights by combining the very best analytical tools and methods with a distinct, interdisciplinary approach.”  They are frequently used by government, such as the State of California to do research.   The term “public policy” implies that their results can impact laws and proposed legislation.   For our purposes, their conclusions may become the impetus for new changes in workers’ compensation law.

The Rand Corporation Study, with respect to California Firefighters was done with “[t]he purpose of this report was to provide new information to policymakers about the frequency, nature, and consequences of firefighter injuries in California, with a particular focus on MSDs.”  In other words, the State of California may use the data to change workers’ compensation law with respect to Firefighters, or Fire Departments may change their risk management approaches to attempt to reduce claims.

What Did the Rand Study Find?

Highest Rate of Injuries

The Rand Study found that “firefighters are significantly more likely to be injured than workers in other occupations.”

Highest Rate of Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs)

The Rand Study found that “ a larger share of those injuries are MSDs.”

Specifically, we found that nearly half (47 percent) of firefighter injuries are MSDs, compared to 38 percent for police officers, 42 percent for other public-sector workers, 37 percent in our private-sector comparison group with similar job requirements to firefighters, and 42 percent for other private-sector workers.

Spine and Knee Injures Are More Common Than Upper Extremity Injuries

The Study found that there were “differences in the nature and cause of firefighter injuries. Compared to other occupations, injuries to firefighters are less likely to involve the upper extremities and significantly more likely to involve lower extremities or the trunk. Strains are the modal cause of injury for firefighters.”

Burn Injuries Are More Significant Than Other Occupations

The Rand Study found that “burns are significantly more common among firefighters than other workers but still represent a small share of injuries (6 percent) in comparison to MSDs.”

Cumulative Trauma vs. Specific Dates of Injury

The Rand Study found that “a lower share of firefighter injuries were reported as being due to cumulative trauma than workers in other occupations.”

Psychiatric Injuries for Firefighters

The Rand Study shows that the dated indicated that “firefighters and police have similar rates of psychiatric comorbidities. However, perhaps surprisingly, incidence rates of psychological injuries—including PTSD—for public safety workers are substantially lower than rates observed among other public-sector workers or comparable private-sector workers.”

Note: as noted in the study, Firefighters may carry with them a stigma concerning mental health issues.   Firefighters with mental health concerns may seek treatment privately rather than file a work injury claim.

Is There Any Good News for Firefighters with respect to the Study?

There was some good news in the Rand Study for Firefighters. The economic consequences of musculoskeletal disorders was less serve than for other similar occupations.   It was noted the Fire Departments appear to do better than other employers, including other public sector employers, at retaining Injured Workers.   Also, SB 863, a recent law change, provided for higher ratings for MSD injuries for Firefighters.  Finally, there was no evidence found that treatment caps for chiropractic, occupational therapy, or physical medicine treatments did not substantially impact most Firefighters.

What is there to Make of the Rand Study?

In light of the findings, it would appear that there would be no effort to try to increase additional indemnity to Firefighters.   Further,  it would appear that there would be no effort to change treatment protocol as well.  Perhaps, injury rate reduction would be explored.   In sum, risk management for the departments may try to take steps to reduce injuries.  Any reduction may be difficult to achieve due to the job’s physical demands.

What if I Need Advice?

If you would like a free consultation regarding workers’ compensation, please contact the Law Offices of Edward J. Singer, a Professional Law Corporation. We have been helping people in Central and Southern California deal with their workers’ compensation cases for 27 years. Contact us today for more information.

HOSPICE WORKERS AND WORKERS’ COMPENSATION: STRESSFUL WORK ENVIRONMENTS AND PSYCHOLOGICAL WORK INJURIES: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Some Occupational or Work Environments that have unusual forms of stress.   Hospices and Hospice-related duties is one.  In a society with an increasing aging population, Hospice Workers perform the vital function of addressing the needs of terminally ill patients.  Working in such facilities or performing such duties can have an emotional impact on the worker.

There has been a number of articles which have discussed the emotional concerns of these workers.

There are multiple issues that relate to why Hospice Workers experience stress.

This article will discuss the nature of Hospice Work, why such employment is stressful, and what a Hospice Worker can do in the event that the work-related stress becomes disabling.

What is a Hospice? 

Hospices are health care facilities which provide care to those who are facing the end of their life.   They provide services to ensure that the patients’ physical, emotional, and spiritual needs are met during this period.

These facilities can involve multiple disciplines, can be face-paced, and can involve transitioning caseloads.

What Are The Difficulties When Working at a Hospice?

There are a number of difficulties with Hospices.  There is the difficulties of dealing with the emotional support needed for both families and the patients who are facing death. There is the difficulties with heavy caseload.  There is the administrative, agency and institution,  requirements in these facilities which can be a source of stress.

24-7 Care

“The hospice system provides 24-7 support and includes rapid response teams who cover nights and weekends. Even though other hospice workers have taken over providing care to that patient, the feeling of caring doesn’t stop.” Hospice Employees’ Perceptions of Their Work Environment: A Focus Group Perspective, Rebecca H. Lehto,  Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(17), 6147; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17176147 Received: 30 June 2020 / Revised: 13 August 2020 / Accepted: 17 August 2020 / Published: 24 August 2020.

Note: Graveyard and Rotating Shifts have been known to cause medical problems irrespective of the fact that it involves Hospice Work.

Heavy Caseload

“Caseloads are widely different by role due to the nature of the work, with social workers and chaplains carrying larger numbers of patients than nurses and aides. Despite these differences, many of the challenges reported were remarkably similar. Workload is intense; often there is not time for lunch (unless while driving) or even to use the bathroom. Hospice Employees’ Perceptions of Their Work Environment: A Focus Group Perspective, Rebecca H. Lehto,  Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(17), 6147; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17176147 Received: 30 June 2020 / Revised: 13 August 2020 / Accepted: 17 August 2020 / Published: 24 August 2020.

Note: Stress from heavy caseload should not be considered as a “good faith personnel action.”

Different Roles

“Different roles reported different challenges. Many of the hospice worker roles are salaried, officially paid and expect to work 40 h per week, but often ending up putting in additional hours without additional compensation. Managers are also salaried but have less expectation of “only” working 40 h. On the other hand, aides are paid overtime when they work more than 8 h, but are discouraged from doing so. These differences led to different pressures.”. Hospice Employees’ Perceptions of Their Work Environment: A Focus Group Perspective, Rebecca H. Lehto,  Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(17), 6147; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17176147 Received: 30 June 2020 / Revised: 13 August 2020 / Accepted: 17 August 2020 / Published: 24 August 2020.

Note: Some of these Role Issues may involve issues of “good faith personnel action” which may give rise to a defense to a workers’ compensation claim.

Communication

“Communication problems may also contribute to the chaotic nature of many workdays. Interdisciplinary teams, by definition, means different roles, responsibilities, and vocabularies, all caring for the same patients, usually in separate visits or calls. Such complexity can result in unanticipated communication problems as indicated by the following nurse’s example: Hospice Employees’ Perceptions of Their Work Environment: A Focus Group Perspective, Rebecca H. Lehto,  Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(17), 6147; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17176147 Received: 30 June 2020 / Revised: 13 August 2020 / Accepted: 17 August 2020 / Published: 24 August 2020.

Note: Some of these communication difficulties may involve issues of “good faith personnel action” which may give rise to a defense to a workers’ compensation claim.

What are the Consequences of The Difficulties of Working in a  Hospice Environment?

The consequences of such employment is Occupational Burnout as well as Secondary Traumatic Stress.

What is Occupational Burnout? 

“Job (occupational) burnout is defined as a prolonged response to job stressors, encompassing exhaustion, cynicism, and inefficacy (Maslach, Schaufeli, & Leiter, 2001); however, a more recent definition includes exhaustion and disengagement (Demerouti, Bakker, Vardakou, & Kantas, 2003; Demerouti, Mostert, & Bakker, 2010). Exhaustion, in this sense, refers to being drained of physical, cognitive and emotional energy as a result of exposure to job demands, while disengagement is interpreted as distancing oneself from work and possessing a negative attitude toward work-related objects and tasks. Job burnout is associated with depletion of energy and personal resources, which makes it an important factor in the process of health impairment (Basińska & Gruszczyńska, 2017). Burnout can cause the individual to be susceptible to other negative consequences of experienced stress, including posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or secondary traumatic stress.” Ogińska-Bulik, N., & Michalska, P. (2020). Psychological resilience and secondary traumatic stress in nurses working with terminally ill patients—The mediating role of job burnoutPsychological Services. Advance online publication. https://dx.doi.org/10.1037/ser0000421

What is Secondary Traumatic Stress?

Secondary Traumatic Stress “is characterized primarily by symptoms of intrusion (returning thoughts, dreams related to trauma), avoidance (an effort to get rid of emotions, thoughts associated with traumatic event) and hyperarousal (increased vigilance, anxiety, and impatience; Bride, Robinson, Yegidis, & Figley, 2004 Ogińska-Bulik, N., & Michalska, P. (2020). Psychological resilience and secondary traumatic stress in nurses working with terminally ill patients—The mediating role of job burnoutPsychological Services. Advance online publication. https://dx.doi.org/10.1037/ser0000421

What is Compassion Fatigue?

In one article, it noted that “It is important to mention that the consequence of secondary exposure to trauma at work is also called compassion fatigue (Figley, 2002), which indicates that STS bears some similarity to burnout syndrome, especially to emotional exhaustion. According to Figley (1995) STS appears as a complex state of dysfunction and exhaustion in which emotional distress and suffering experienced by trauma victims is taken on by the helpers.” Ogińska-Bulik, N., & Michalska, P. (2020). Psychological resilience and secondary traumatic stress in nurses working with terminally ill patients—The mediating role of job burnoutPsychological Services. Advance online publication. https://dx.doi.org/10.1037/ser0000421

What are the Problems for Hospice Workers?

From the studies, as noted above, it would appear that the stress is two-fold.   There is the stress from performing the job and there is the stress from dealing with the administration of the facilities.   Thus, both the work, and the work-setting can be injurious to the worker on an emotional level.

If a Hospice Worker is Having Emotional Problems, What Should They Do? What Are the Concerns?

First, they should seek medical assistance.   This can include utilizing an Employee Assistance Program if one is available. A workers’ compensation claim may be considered.   Before doing so, an analysis should be done with respect to whether the worker will meet the threshold requirements for proving up a claim.   Consultation with an attorney is recommended.   Some of the threshold issues may involve the length of employment, outside stressors, and whether there has been good faith non-discriminatory personnel action.

What If I Need Legal Advice?

If you would like a free consultation concerning any workers’ compensation case, 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 28 years. Contact us today for more information.

 

POST TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER (PTSD), OCCUPATIONAL CAUSES, & EMPLOYER ASSESSMENT AND REACTION: WORKERS’ COMPENSATION AND PTSD: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a Psychiatric Diagnosis that Injured Workers can receive as a result of exposure to workplace stress. In the California Workers’ Compensation System, both Insurance Companies and Employers are well aware of the serious consequences with PTSD injuries.   This includes the fact, Workers’ Compensation Laws include several Labor Code Sections that support Injured Workers making PTSD claims.

This article will discuss PTSD, workplace causes of PTSD, risk management approaches to PTSD, and Labor Code Sections that impact to PTSD claims.

What is PTSD?

“Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a disorder that develops in some people who have experienced a shocking, scary, or dangerous event. It is natural to feel afraid during and after a traumatic situation. Fear triggers many split-second changes in the body to help defend against danger or to avoid it. This “fight-or-flight” response is a typical reaction meant to protect a person from harm. Nearly everyone will experience a range of reactions after trauma, yet most people recover from initial symptoms naturally. Those who continue to experience problems may be diagnosed with PTSD. People who have PTSD may feel stressed or frightened, even when they are not in danger.” – National Institute of Mental Health

The Specific and Cumulative Nature of Stressors?

Workplace stressors causing PTSD vary temporally. They can occur in a specific manner such as a robbery.   They can occur in a cumulative fashion such an Employee being continually bullied in the workplace.

What Are the Causes of PTSD in the Workplace?

Workplace causes of PTSD can be broken into two categories. There is Workplace Stress and Traumatic Stressful Events.

What Workplace Stress can give rise to PTSD?

Workplaces stressors that can give rise to PTSD include supervisor relations, group morale and cohesion, administrative procedures, workload, shift duties, resources and internal personal conflict Post-traumatic stress disorder in occupational settings: anticipating and managing the risk Alexander C. McFarlane, Richard A. Bryant Occupational Medicine, Volume 57, Issue 6, September 2007, Pages 404–410, https://doi.org/10.1093/occmed/kqm070

What Traumatic Stressful events can give rise to work-related PTSD?

Traumatic stressful events that can occur in the workplace include mass disasters, serious accidents, threats or death and injury, deaths of colleagues, witnessing deaths, suffering and injury and assault. Post-traumatic stress disorder in occupational settings: anticipating and managing the risk Post-traumatic stress disorder in occupational settings: anticipating and managing the risk Alexander C. McFarlane, Richard A. Bryant Occupational Medicine, Volume 57, Issue 6, September 2007, Pages 404–410, https://doi.org/10.1093/occmed/kqm070

Why are Insurance Companies and Employers concerned about PTSD cases?

First, in the event of an obvious stressful event, i.e. a shooting in the workplace, Insurance Companies and Employers realize that the chances of having any legal defense to defeat such a claim is minimum. Therefore, their goal is to minimize the risk.

In other words, the most important goal for Employers and Insurance Companies is to minimize the expenses on the claim. Costs that can be minimized include medical treatment, temporary and permanent indemnity, future medical treatment, and vocational rehabilitation.

How is the Risk Managed in PTSD Cases?

It has been suggested that PTSD risk management should include screening, observation, and treatment. Post-traumatic stress disorder in occupational settings: anticipating and managing the risk Alexander C. McFarlane, Richard A. Bryant Occupational Medicine, Volume 57, Issue 6, September 2007, Pages 404–410, https://doi.org/10.1093/occmed/kqm070

What is Screening?

As part of Risk Management, there will be an attempt to screen Workers who may be at risk for PTSD.  It is noted that “Screening for psychological disorders is an effective strategy in workers who are at significant risk because of their levels of trauma exposure. Such a strategy involves identifying individuals at risk and screening them in the immediate aftermath and again approximately 6 months later.”  Post-traumatic stress disorder in occupational settings: anticipating and managing the risk Alexander C. McFarlane, Richard A. Bryant Occupational Medicine, Volume 57, Issue 6, September 2007, Pages 404–410, https://doi.org/10.1093/occmed/kqm070

Note: Screening presents problems. Are the individuals screening trained to do so?  Will the Employees react negatively towards this screening? Is it better that such screening be done by a medical provider provided through a workers’ compensation claim by some other means such as an EAP program?

What is Observation?

Risk Management suggest that Managers observe Workers who are at risk for PTSD.  They will be looking for things such as increased alcohol use, interpersonal and or family conflict, social withdrawal, depression, somatic distress and performance deterioration.  Supra.

Note:  Observation can be very problematic for Injured Workers.   Having suffered through a psychiatric disturbance is certainly enough for one person.   The notion that Management is tantamount to spying on the individual can add additional unnecessary paranoia and psychiatric symptomology to the already existing PTSD symptoms.

What is Treatment?

“The aim of effective treatment is to minimize these disabilities before they emerge.” Supra. Per Labor Code Section 4600, Injured Workers are entitled to treatment subject to a utilization review schedule and Independent Medical Review.

Note: Minimizing disabilities translates to lower costs on cases.  Effective treatment reduces the need for temporary disability, permanent disability, need for future care and need for vocational rehabilitation services. In the Workers’ Compensation System, however, Insurance Companies are slow to act and often deny both treatment and claim.

Why Are Post-Trauma Factors Important in Managing Risk?

As much as what happened to cause the PTSD, events that happen post injury can shape the course an Injured Worker’s claim.

“In the aftermath of the event, a range of factors can modify the recovery or escalate distress such as social support and stress that emerge in the aftermath of the event such as continued exposure to the distress of the victims or critical legal investigations of the circumstances of the event where blame is involved.” Post-traumatic stress disorder in occupational settings: anticipating and managing the risk Alexander C. McFarlane, Richard A. Bryant Occupational Medicine, Volume 57, Issue 6, September 2007, Pages 404–410, https://doi.org/10.1093/occmed/kqm070

In sum, what happens in the workplace or elsewhere after the PTSD event can have a profound impact on the claim.  Therefore, Risk Management principles dictate that Management should continue to view the workplace as an ongoing site of injury. Post Injury events can push individuals who were functioning over the edge and create profound disability.

What Labor Code Sections specifically address PTSD issues?

There are two Labor Code Sections that I view as specifically related to PTSD.

The first is the PTSD Presumption which applies to certain law enforcement and safety offices.   This is Labor Code Section 3212.15. For more information concerning this Presumption, click here. 

The second is the Labor Code Section which lowers the causative burden for stress claims which involve violent acts.  Labor Code Section 3208.3(b)(2) which provides that “  in the case of employees whose injuries resulted from being a victim of a violent act or from direct exposure to a significant violent act, the employee shall be required to demonstrate by a preponderance of the evidence that actual events of employment were a substantial cause of the injury”.[emphasis added]

Note: This was included due to the fact that those events described have a significant possibility of resulting in PTSD.   This section lowers the burden of causation from predominant cause (greater than 50 percent) to 35 to 40 percent for the Injured Worker.

What If I Need Legal Advice?

If you would like a free consultation concerning any workers’ compensation case, 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 28 years. Contact us today for more information. Click Here.

 

 

WORKERS’ COMPENSATION ATTORNEYS AND TRIALS: INJURED WORKERS, DISPUTED CASES AND WORKERS’ COMPENSATION: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Workers’ Compensation Attorneys can play a vital role in Workers’ Compensation Trials. A Workers’ Compensation Attorney’s abilities can impact on an Injured Worker’s recovery of benefits.

This article will discuss the role of Workers’ Compensation Attorneys in the Trial Process and how they assist Injured Workers in proving up their right to benefits.

Who Are Workers’ Compensation Attorneys?

Technically, there are no “Workers’ Compensation Attorneys.” Attorneys who practice workers’ compensation are licensed in the State of California to practice law. This means that they are eligible to practice any area of law within the State. Workers’ Compensation Attorneys receive the label as being a “Workers’ Compensation Attorney” based upon the fact that a significant part of their practice relates to the handling of workers’ compensations cases.

Workers’ Compensation Attorneys craft their trial skills in many ways. There are various organizations that provide training and education. There is a certified specialist program from the State Bar, there is the Workers’ Compensation Section of the California Lawyers Association (CLA) which provides educational programs, and there is California Applicant Attorneys Association (CAAA) which provides educational programs. Also, the Division of Workers’ Compensation from the Department of Industrial Relations that also provides educational programming. Many attorneys participate in the many different organizations to sharpen their skills.

Finally, many Workers’ Compensations Attorneys have “decades” of experience in representing injured workers and doing workers’ compensation trials. You will find many attorneys who have participated in over 100 trials.

The “Art of the Trial”

A Workers’ Compensation Trial can be viewed as a form of “art.” A well-done Trial is a wonderful thing to observe. When every participant “has their game on,” it is sheer entertainment. It is akin to a game of chess played with law, emotions, truth, lies, cunning, and actual stakes. The chess pieces at the trial include the Judge, the Court Reporter, the Attorneys, and the Witnesses.

The Workers’ Compensation Community has quite a number of skilled and experienced attorneys who are up to the challenge. There have been many outstanding trials. There have been times that I have taken the time out of my busy schedule to sit and observe other parties trials for both educational and entertainment purposes.

In those moments of a well-tried case, you feel that justice is taking place. The parties have been given a fair opportunity to present their case. These moments occur when Judge manages the courtroom with their demeanor and actions. The Judge plays a vital role in maintaining decorum and keeping the trial progressing. At the end of a good trial, the Injured Worker should have had the ample opportunity to be heard in a respectful manner.

In sum, the Constitutional Mandate of “Substantial Justice” will have been achieved.

As Far as Trial, What Skills Does an Attorney Need?

The answer to this question must be broken up into components. Pre-Trial, Trial, and Post-Trial.

Trial: I will first approach this question with respect to the Trial date itself. When I was an Associate Attorney, at a prior law office, on a rare occasion, I assigned to try a case at the last moment. In that circumstance, it was all about Trial Skills in handling the matter. There was no opportunity for Pre-Trial preparation.

Trial Skills include:

  • Proper understanding of WCAB Policy and Procedures
  • Proper reviewing of the file
  • Proper understanding of the issues
  • Proper interaction with the Injured Worker and Witnesses to ascertain testimony
  • The ability to establish a foundation for the issues and evidence and present them so that they are reflected in the record

With all those in mind, the Workers’ Compensation Attorney should be able to present the case, establish all of the facts and get admitted into evidence all pertinent exhibits necessary to “prove up the case.” This can include placing the Injured Worker and possibly some other witnesses on the stand to testify to “prove up the issues.” Also, they must be able to effectively cross-examine any defense witnesses.

Are Workers’ Compensation Trials Different than Civil Trials? Does It Matter?

Yes. Workers’ Compensation cases are tried at the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board before a Workers’ Compensation Judge. Unlike Civil Cases, there is no jury. The proceeding is considered as Administrative Law.

In Workers’ Compensation, the Judge is the “trier-of-fact” rather than a jury. Therefore, the Trial Lawyer dramatics that may be employed in a civil trial may be unwarranted. Sometimes, the Workers’ Compensation Judge, for any given trial, channels the famous line from the fictional character from the TV Show “Dragnet.” As Joe Friday, the Detective for the LAPD, used to saw, “just the facts, ma’am.” Many times, Judges want to avoid trial drama and simply want “the facts.”

What are Workers’ Compensation Attorney’s Pre-Trial Activities?

Pre-Trial Activities involve framing of the legal issues of import for the case and establishing the facts and expert opinion to support the various positions. In workers’ compensation, the expert opinion is generally the employment of a medical expert such as a physician. This expert opinion is presented via medical reporting and deposition. In essence, prior to Trial, the Workers’ Compensation Attorney has all already established all the facts and opinions to support a favorable award. The trial may essentially be whether “the facts” either exist or are truthful in nature. By exist, for example, it could be as simple as the Applicant establishing the fact that they fell off of a ladder. By truthful, it is a situation in which where the Judge may have to decide between the testimony of the Injured Worker versus the testimony of an Employer Witness.

What are Workers’ Compensation Attorneys’ Post-Trial Activities?

Many times, there are Post-Trial activities. There are times at which the Workers’ Compensation Judge may request briefing of the issues from the parties. Therefore, a quality Workers’ Compensation Attorney will have writing skills as well as trial skills. Writing skills involve legal knowledge combined with the ability to express arguments and contentions.

Additionally, there may be appeals relating to an underlying Trial Decision from the Workers’ Compensation Judge. Therefore, a Workers’ Compensation Attorney’s ability to prepare appeals such as Petitions for Reconsideration is also of import. Further, the ability to prepare opposition briefing to a Defendant’s Petition for Reconsideration is required as well.

What If I Need Legal Advice?

If you would like a “free” consultation concerning any workers’ compensation case, 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 28 years. for more information.

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