A status conference is a hearing that assists parties in a workers' compensation case to resolve disputes and narrow issues when the case is not ready to be set for trial.
A status conference can help to:
- obtain medical records
- ensure attendance at medical appointments
- settle a wrokers comp case
- clarify an incorrect temporary disability rate
A status conference is requested by filing a Declaration of Readiness to Proceed (DOR). Any party can request a status conference.
If an injured worker is not represented by an attorney, an insurance company that requests a hearing will have to pay for the injured worker to have an attorney at the hearing.
A status conference can be set for another status conference at a future date, set for a Mandatory Settlement Conference at a future date, or not set again at a future date.
There is no limit to the number of status conferences a party can request in a workers' compensation case.
In this article, our California personal injury lawyers will explain:
- 1. What is a status conference?
- 2. Requesting a Status Conference
- 3. What happens at a status conference?
- 4. The correct use of a status conference
A status conference is a California workers' compensation hearing to:
- determine if there are any disputes requiring resolution
- aid the parties in resolving disputes
- narrow issues
- assist in preparation for trial if a trial is necessary1
When a party requests a status conference, that means it is not ready to proceed to trial. There may be issues or disputes that come up during the case but before it is ready for trial. A status conference can help to resolve those issues or disputes and keep a case moving forward.
A California workers' compensation case is an ongoing relationship between an injured worker and his or her employer's insurance company. The injured worker's claim begins at the time of injury and continues until the case is settled by Stipulated Award or Compromise and Release.
If an attorney does not represent an injured worker, it is unlikely the insurance company will file a DOR. If the insurance company does file a Declaration of Readiness to Proceed when an injured worker is unrepresented, the insurance company will have to pay for an attorney for the injured worker for the hearing.2
In contrast to a status conference, a party requests a Mandatory Settlement Conference when he or she is ready to set an issue for trial.
Example: Joyce has missed her MRI appointment twice. She has not explained this to the insurance company. It requests a status conference to find out why Joyce has not attended the appointment.
Joyce's failure to attend the appointment is delaying her treatment and her case from moving forward.
At the hearing, Joyce says that the MRI facility is too far for her to get to on public transportation and she does not have a car, so she hasn't been able to get to the appointment.
The insurance company arranges transportation for the MRI.
Sometimes an injured worker's case has been going on for years. The injured worker continues to treat for his or her injury, but there is no end in sight. A status conference may help the parties come up with a plan of action to move the case forward.
Example: Julie's case started out as carpal tunnel syndrome but now includes fibromyalgia. The case has been going on for three years. Julie has been to multiple med-legal exams. There is no clear path to ending the claim.
Julie requests a status conference because she is frustrated with her case. At the hearing the insurance company agrees to send Julie to a different specialist, who can come up with a medical plan to move Julie's case to a conclusion.
The insurance company or injured worker may want to try to settle the claim but are not ready to go to trial. A status conference is an opportunity to discuss settlement in this situation.
Example: Jeremy files a workers' compensation claim. The insurance company denies the claim because it says Jeremy was intoxicated when the injury occurred.
At the status conference, the parties can determine if a Compromise and Release can settle Jeremy's case.
The same judge will preside over all status conferences in a single claim. The parties will not have to explain the case to the judge each time there is a status conference.
Example: At a status conference in Eric's case, the judge tells the insurance company to get medical records of Eric's treatment at Kaiser. The records are needed for the treating doctor to evaluate Eric's injury properly. The request is written in the Minutes of Hearing.
The case is set for a status conference six weeks later with the same judge. Any issue with the records will be easier to address because the judge is already familiar with the case.
An injured worker can obtain a status conference hearing date by filing a Declaration of Readiness to Proceed.
In a DOR the filer chooses a status conference as the type of hearing and checks off one or more of the following issues:
- compensation rate
- rehabilitation/supplemental job displacement benefits
- temporary disability
- self-procured medical treatment
- permanent Disability
- future medical treatment
- is there an injury (aoe/coe)
The DOR also has a line to list any other disputed issue.
The preparer of the DOR must list the efforts he or she made to resolve the issue before filing the DOR.
When the DOR is received by the Workers' Compensation Appeals Board office, a hearing date is set. The hearing date may be three weeks to three months after the DOR is filed. The date depends on how busy the court is where the DOR is filed.
A Notice of Hearing is sent to the injured worker, insurance company, and any attorneys involved in the case.
Status conferences in California workers' compensation cases are at 8:30 a.m. or 1:30 p.m. and are generally set on Monday through Thursday.
A status conference, like any other California workers' compensation conference, takes place in a room in an office building.
The hearing room does not look like a courtroom. The room has multiple tables for the parties and a desk for the judge.
At the time of a status conference, there are usually ten to twenty other cases set at the same time.
An insurance company will usually send an attorney to a hearing. The attorney will be in contact with the claim's adjuster by telephone for instructions.
The insurance company's attorney and injured worker can discuss the claim and see if the dispute can be resolved before speaking with the judge.
If an injured worker has an attorney, the two attorneys will discuss the claim.
If an injured worker is not represented by an attorney, he or she can speak to an Information and Assistance Officer (I&A Officer). The I&A Officer will not give legal advice but can help the injured worker understand procedures and forms.
Once the parties have resolved their dispute or determined it cannot be resolved, they can see the judge.
If there is an agreement on the disputed issue, the judge will write the agreement into the Minutes of Hearing. Each party will clearly know what he or she is required to do. If the issue comes up again, there will be a record of what took place.
If both sides agree a status conference can be continued to a Mandatory Settlement Conference. The parties may learn at the status conference that they are in fact ready move forward to a trial on any disputed issues.
A status conference can also be continued to another status conference to make sure one side does what he or she agrees to at the hearing.
Alternatively, if the issue is resolved, the hearing can be taken off the court calendar.
A status conference can help to move a case forward. There is rarely any downside to requesting and attending a status conference in a California workers' compensation case.
It can be difficult for an injured worker to communicate with an insurance company as insurance adjusters may handle over a hundred claims. The opportunity to meet in person with a judge often resolves issues and puts a plan into motion to end the case.
Call us for help...
For help with filing a workers compensation claim in Calfornia, completing workers comp forms or appealing a denial of benefits, contact us at (855) LAW-FIRM. Our firm helps police officers, firefighters and other workers to get compensation for their job-related injuries.
Cal. Code Regs., § 8, tit. 10301, subd. kk
Cal. Lab. Code § 4064(c)