Depending on how far along you are with your workers’ compensation case in California, you may be required to attend a mandatory settlement conference, a hearing before a worker’s compensation judge, or an appeal.
- Mandatory Settlement Conference: This is typically the first "hearing" in the worker’s compensation process. Although it is possible to be deposed and have other conferences, the mandatory settlement conference essentially paves the way for the rest of the case. After a petition called a "Declaration of Readiness to Proceed" is filed, a mandatory settlement conference should be scheduled. Generally, it will occur anywhere between 10 and 60 days after a petition is filed.
- Hearing: Commonly referred to as a "trial," this hearing is where disability status and overall compensation will be determined. This hearing is similar to a trial because witnesses may be called and both lawyers put forth a case, but differs from a traditional trial in many ways; evidentiary rules are slightly relaxed, and the entire proceeding is before a judge and not a jury. The process is also called making an appearance before an "Appeals Board," rather than a trial.
- Appeal: If a party is unhappy with the decision of the Appeals, they have the option of appealing. Only the Courts of Appeal and Supreme Court have the power and jurisdiction to overturn the decision of the Appeals Board.
In every worker’s compensation case, some type of hearing will typically occur. However, whether one is "required" will depend on several factors, such as the type of injury and what issues are disputed.
Until recently, California required the Administrative Director of the Division of Workers’ Compensation to establish a priority conference calendar for cases where an attorney represents the employee and the disputed issues are employment or injury. As of today, cases where the employee is or was employed by an illegally uninsured employer now also receive priority status.
If you were injured on the job, you should consider hiring an employment lawyer immediately. The process is long, complicated, and the insurance companies are undoubtedly better situated for fight these claims than you are. A California lawyer can make sure everything is done fairly and ensure your rights are protected.