By Attorney Robert A. McLaughlin
People frequently reflect on the previous year and set plans for the future as part of a long-standing custom known as New Year's resolutions. Here are some modifications that, in my opinion, should be made to the California Workers' Compensation system in 2023.
More court reporters for the courts.
This is not just an issue for the district offices of the Workers' Compensation Appeals Board (the workers’ compensation courts) but is a statewide issue for all Courts. There is a shortage throughout the State of California of court reporters.
Currently, at the San Diego WCAB, there are zero court reporters. None, nada. For our trials in San Diego, the court reporters are brought in remotely from other workers' compensation courts. And we are only assigned two a day.
San Diego is one of the bigger WCAB offices, we cover all injuries from the Arizona border to the Pacific Ocean and up from the US-Mexico border to the Orange County line and parts of south Riverside County. Because of this large expanse, the San Diego WCAB has a total of 9 judges, of which 6 will have trials every Monday – Thursday. On average, every Judge who has trials set before them will have between 4-5 trials set every day. An average of 27 trials per day. Of that total, only about 25% of the cases will go forward to trial, or about 7 cases.
Well, you can do the math. With only 2 court reporters, at best 4 cases (usually only 2-3) a day will be able to go to trial. Leaving 3 cases a day to be continued for another day. With Judges having trials 4 days a week, on average, 12 Injured Workers’ cases a week cannot go to trial. These Injured Workers’ trials are continued to a date to be determined. The backlog of Injured Workers’ cases needing trials is growing every week.
Other district offices of the WCAB are also short reporters, such as San Francisco. As we noted in resolution #7, the WCAB is 100% user funded. No reason another ¼ to ½ a penny could be charged to the workers' compensation insurance companies' premiums and employers' reserves to cover the cost to get sufficient court reporters for Injured Workers to get their cases heard and their rights determined timely.
As the old legal maxim states, “Justice delayed is justice denied.” Most of the 2023 resolutions can be fixed with swift justice for Injured Workers.
And swift justice is the sweetest justice of all.
Hoping and praying for a better 2023 for Injured Workers.