Substitution of Dismissals in California Workers’ Compensation Cases

Why are there Attorneys in the Workers’ Compensation System?

California Workers’ Compensation Law is an Administrative Law. Parties in Civil Court matters have access to Jury Trials. In the Workers’ Compensation Law, there are no juries. The Workers’ Compensation Administrative Law Judge (WCJ) adjudicates the case. The WCJ will act as the finder of fact. Attorneys can participate in workers’ compensation proceedings to advocate for establishing facts and the law concerning a particular case.

Frequently, because of the complexity of California Workers’ Compensation Law, the parties employ attorneys. California Workers’ Compensation Law is so complicated that the California State Bar offers attorneys the opportunity to certify as a specialist within the field.

All parties involved in litigation before the California Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board, injured workers, insurance companies, claims administrators, employers, and lien claims employ attorneys to represent them.

Why Do Parties Change Attorneys?

Like all relationships, Attorney-Client relationships do not always work or cannot work. At that point, the Client and the Attorney may have to act to dissolve the relationship. Further, businesses have other reasons as to why they change attorneys.

Two of the most common reasons why there is a change of attorneys are as follows:

Availability of Attorney

An attorney’s availability is a basis for changing attorneys. The death of the attorney, the disbarment of the attorney, or the fact that the attorney is no longer licensed to practice law are the common availability issues.

Breakdown in Relationship

The breakdown in the relationship is another reason why a client changes attorneys. These include breakdowns in communication between the Attorney and Client, the lack of communication between the Attorney and Client, the failure of the Attorney to perform the duties requested, and the development of a conflict of interest between the Client and the Attorney.

Can an Injured Worker terminate their relationship with their current attorney?

Yes. An Injured Worker can terminate their relationship with their attorney at any time. It does not cost additional money to do so. The change of attorney, however, may cause a delay in their case. It also may or may not help in the prosecution of the case. Also, if an Injured Worker changes attorneys too often, it may limit their ability to obtain additional counsel. Many attorneys do not wish to substitute in on cases in which there has been prior representation. The New Attorney’s lack of interest in signing on is magnified when there have been multiple attorneys in the past. Again, changing attorneys is a serious matter. It should not be done on a whim. Before doing so, it is advised that there should be some attempt to repair the relationship, if possible.

What is a Dismissal of Attorney?

Essentially, there are two types of dismissals of attorney. The first Dismissal of Attorney is one in which the Client executes the Dismissal of attorney form. Once this form is filed at the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board, the Client will be considered “In Pro Per.” In other words, without representation. The Dismissal of Attorney is a form that needs to be signed by the party and filed at the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board. It can be obtained at the WCAB website.

In some circumstances, an attorney will file to be relieved as counsel of record. This is akin to a dismissal of attorney. This can occur when the Client is uncooperative; there is a breakdown in the attorney-client relationship, or non-payment of fees. The Attorney will petition the court to be relieved as counsel. It is up to the Workers’ Compensation Judge to issue the order relieving counsel. It is the WCJ’s discretion to issue the order.

What is a Substitution of Attorneys?

A Substitution of Attorneys is a procedure in which a party replaces their legal representative with a different one. A Substitution of Attorney occurs by preparing the Substitution of Attorney form and filing it as the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board. The Client executes the form, the Former Attorney and the New Attorney.

Why Does an Insurance Company Change Attorneys?

Insurance Companies change attorneys for many reasons. First, there may be a change in Insurance Company Panels. Insurance Companies frequently employ only attorneys who have been hand-selected for representation by the carrier or employer. Sometimes, Law Firms are dropped from the Insurance Company Panels. As a result, there may be a change in attorneys. In those circumstances, the change may have nothing to do with the attorney’s handling of the matter. Also, sometimes, there may be a financial dispute between the Insurance Company and the Attorney, and that may cause the basis for the change. Also, there may be a situation in which there is a change in the adjuster, and the adjuster wishes to have another attorney handle the matter. Also, there may be some conflict concerning how the file was handled, and the result of the conflict is that the carrier changes attorney.

Sometimes, after the legal matters have been handled at the end of the case, the Insurance Company will dismiss its attorney and handle the matter independently. This is usually done when handling liens or administering future medical care.

substition of attorney and dismissal of attorney in california workers comp

Why Do Employers change attorneys?

Employers have their reasons for changing attorneys besides the reasons noted above. One of the additional reasons for an Employer to change attorneys is when an Employer changes management. The other reason is that there may be a fee dispute with the current attorney. It could be either the Employer is not paying the attorney or the attorney has billed too much.

In sum, Is it a good idea to change attorneys?

It depends. Each case involves a special analysis concerning this issue. Consultation with an attorney is recommended before making the decision. Sometimes, it is possible that the attorney and client can work together to resolve the problems, so a change of attorney is unnecessary. Other times, it is apparent that the replacement attorney has a better insight and plan for prosecuting a claim successfully. The current attorney may not have addressed particular issues. Careful research and consideration should be done before making such a decision.

The Law Offices of Edward J. Singer

With over 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 or issues regarding workers’ compensation, please do not hesitate to contact our offices.

9.3Edward Jay Singer
Edward Jay SingerReviewsout of 22 reviews