Dear Clients, Colleagues and Friends:
Another month passes within a restive and uncertain period. The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted nearly every facet of life and business and from every current indication, the pandemic effect will continue for quite some time. The following are some practice tips and reminders:
QME PROCESS: The Governor’s Stay at Home Executive Order (N-33-20) has not been lifted and therefore please keep in mind that we are governed by emergency regulation 46.2. A PQME may re-schedule an appointment to take place within 90 days following the lifting of the Stay at Home Order or applicable local orders. Otherwise, in-person examinations to take place within 90 days or 120 days, if the parties agree. If the PQME cannot schedule within 120 days, then a replacement panel may be requested. The PQME may review records and conduct electronic interview with injured worker and summary report. A tele-health exam may take place on AOE/COE or benefit termination, but the parties must agree. A refusal must be reasonable, subject to WCAB jurisdiction. Initial reports due in 45 days and supplemental reports in 75 days. You can agree to waive in-person examinations, but this has to be very carefully considered.
DWC: Status Conferences, Expedited Hearings, Priority Conferences, MSC’s and case-in-chief Trials are conducted by teleconferencing through individually assigned WCJ call-in numbers. As of 08/17/2020, the WCJ may conduct a trial using a “virtual courtroom.” The platform is LifeSize. Defense counsel should arrange to have witnesses available, which can be done through a smartphone. Electronic signatures permitted for all settlement documents. It is recommended that defense counsel speak with the appearing attorney before the appearance, as it can result in a faster disposition.
Governor’s Executive Order No N-62-20: The EO which created a disputable presumption of COVID-19 injury for those workers who were directed to work or perform services at the employer’s place of business, was in effect from 03/19/2020 to 07/06/2020. The EO has expired and SB 1159, which would make the presumptive injury permanent, is still in the Legislature. Therefore, we have a “gap” from 07/07/2020 to at least 09/30/2020. We would recommend handling any “gap” COVID-19 claims as if they were operative under the EO, except you have 90 and not 30 days within which to accept or deny the claim.