Can I file for an Expedited Hearing?
An Expedited Hearing with the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board is a special hearing designed to fast-track certain narrow issues in a workers’ compensation case by allowing the parties to go directly to trial on said narrow issue the day the hearing is set (versus waiting for a trial date which typically follows a Mandatory Settlement Conference.) The issues typically need to be related to an accepted case and are restricted to issues involving:
- Entitlement to medical treatment
- If applicant is required to treat in the MPN
- A medical treatment appointment or medical legal evaluation
- Entitlement to temporary disability benefits
- Entitlement to compensation when there is a dispute as to liability among carriers.
Labor Code Section 5505 and Title 8 of the California Code of Regulations, section 10782 outline the specific requirements necessary before filing a Declaration of Readiness to Proceed to an Expedited Hearing. There are exceptions to these requirements which may not allow for the requested Expedited Hearing to move forward or may allow for an Expedited Hearing when the case has not been accepted. Labor Code Section 5502 is open ended as it allows the court to create a priority calendar for any issues requiring an expedited hearing or decision. In addition to the outlined reasons to request an Expedited Hearing Labor Code Section 5502 states that an Expedited Hearing can be requested for “[a]ny other issues requiring an expedited hearing and determination as prescribed in the rules and regulations of the administrative director.” This portion of the Labor Code Section 5502 creates a way to argue for an Expedited Hearing for less “traditional” reasons.
One notable exception to the rule that the case must be accepted before an Expedited Hearing can be requested is when the issue has to do with a QME panel dispute or medical legal examination. In this regard Labor Code Section 5502 and Title 8 of the California Code of Regulations, section 10782 seem to conflict in that Labor Code Section 5502 allows for an Expedited Hearing for medical legal examination issues (which occur when the claim is accepted or denied) while Regulation 10782 seems to restrict Expedited Hearings to accepted cases. The case of Corado v. Ghodsian (2021) Cal. Wrk. Comp. P.D. LEXIS 261 (Corado) addresses this conflict briefly but does not provide a ruling on that issue. The court in Corado seems to indicate that a WCJ could proceed forward with an Expedited Hearing on a panel issue for a case that is not accepted provided it creates a record and takes any evidence that may be offered by the parties. See also the case of Flores v. Barrett Bus. Servs. (2018) Cal. Wrk. Comp. P.D. LEXIS 452, which was a case that went to trial via an Expedited Hearing on denied cases.
There is also a chance that even if there is no dispute as to the validity of the Expedited Hearing request that the matter may not move forward to trial the day of the hearing. According to Title 8 of the California Code of Regulations Section 10782(c) the WCJ can re-designate the hearing to a mandatory settlement conference. The basis for re-designation usually is due to anticipated extensive or prolonged witness testimony. If the case is re-designated there may be a trial date provided to address the issue.
The takeaway here is to assure that a Declaration of Readiness to Proceed to an Expedited Hearing is the proper request for the issue in dispute, and to see if there are perhaps any exceptions to the traditional basis for Expedited Hearings that may allow for quicker adjudication of an issue.