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from its web site at www.dir.ca.gov. These regulations are for the
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Chapter 4.5. Division of Workers' Compensation
Subchapter 1. Administrative Director--Administrative Rules
Article 8. Benefit Notices; Claims Administrator's Duties and Responsibilities; Claim Form and Notice of Potential Eligibility for Benefits; Regulatory Authority of the Administrative Director.
(a) This Article applies to benefit notices prepared on or after its effective date. Where a claim is subject to an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) program pursuant to section 3201.5 or 3201.7, the contents of any notice required by this Article that would be inconsistent with the provisions of the ADR agreement shall be modified to be consistent with the ADR agreement.
(b) The Administrative Director may issue and revise from time to time a Benefit Notice Instruction Manual as a guide for completing and serving the notices required by this Article.
(c) Benefit notices, excepting those notices whose language or format is set forth in statute or where a specific notice form has been adopted as a regulation, may be produced on the claims administrator's letterhead.
(1) All notices shall identify the claims administrator's name, mailing address, telephone number and website address if available, the employee's name, employer's name, the claim number, the date the notice was sent to the employee, and the date of injury. All notices shall clearly identify the name and telephone number and mailing address of the individual claims examiner responsible for the payment and adjusting of the claim.
(2) Where the claims administrator has a clearly documented reason to believe that disclosure of the claims examiner's name presents or may present a security concern towards the personal safety of the claims examiner, the claims administrator may identify an alternate but specific claims department name and telephone number in lieu of the claims examiner's name and telephone number.
(3) All notices shall include a notation if one or more attachments are being sent with the notice.
(d) All notices shall clearly state that additional information may be obtained from an Information and Assistance officer with the Division of Workers' Compensation, or on the Division's website: www.dwc.ca.gov. Each benefit notice shall refer the employee (by chapter number and internet url) to the appropriate chapter of the publication “Workers' Compensation in California: A Guidebook for Injured Workers” that addresses the benefit(s) to which the notice pertains, and shall advise the employee that a complete copy of the Guidebook may be obtained on the Division of Workers' Compensation's website at http://www.dir.ca.gov/InjuredWorkerGuidebook/InjuredWorkerGuidebook.html or by contacting an information and assistance (I&A) officer of the Division of Workers' Compensation. If the employer offers additional disability benefits in addition to those provided by law under workers' compensation, the claims administrator may incorporate the information within the notices required by these regulations. A single benefit notice may encompass multiple events. Where a notice is being issued but a check for benefits to which the notice refers is being separately mailed to the employee, the notice shall advise the employee that the check is being mailed separately.
(e) Every benefit notice, excepting those mandatory notices that have been set forth in statute or where a specific notice form has been adopted as a regulation, shall include a mandatory statement of employee's (or claimant's) remedies, as follows:
(1) For claims not subject to an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) program under Labor Code sections 3201.5 or 3201.7, the following language shall be used:
“You have a right to disagree with decisions affecting your claim. If you have any questions about the information provided to you in this notice, please call, [insert either me, the adjuster's name or a specific claims department name and telephone number]. You also have the right to be represented by an attorney of your choice. However, if you are represented by an attorney, you should call your attorney, not me.
“For information about the workers' compensation claims process and your rights and obligations, go to www.dwc.ca.gov or contact an information and assistance (I&A) officer of the state Division of Workers' Compensation. For recorded information and a list of offices, call (800) 736-7401.”
(2) For claims subject to an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) program under Labor Code sections 3201.5 or 3201.7, the language in paragraph (1) shall be used to the extent that it is consistent with the provisions of the ADR agreement, and the following language shall be substituted in its place to the extent appropriate according to the ADR agreement:
“You have a right to disagree with decisions affecting your claim. If you have any questions regarding the information provided to you in this notice, please call, [insert either me, the adjuster's name or a specific claims department name and telephone number], or [insert name, title, and telephone of ombudsperson or mediator]. However, if you are represented by an attorney, you should call your attorney, not [insert me, or the specific claims department name], the ombudsperson, or mediator.
NOTE: For employees subject to an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) program under Labor Code section 3201.5, the claims administrator may include the following language if appropriate under the provisions of the ADR program:
“In accordance with the [insert union name] agreement, active participation by an attorney is not allowed in the Ombudsman and Mediation stages of the ADR workers' compensation process. However, you have the right to consult with an attorney and your right to obtain legal advice is not limited and you may obtain such at your own expense at any time. If the Ombudsman and Mediation stages of dispute resolution are unsuccessful and a written request for Arbitration has been timely filed, attorney participation is allowed.
“For information about the workers' compensation claims process and your rights and obligations, contact an information and assistance (I&A) officer of the state Division of Workers' Compensation. Be sure to inform the I&A officer that your claim is subject to an alternative dispute resolution program. For a list of offices, go to www.dwc.ca.gov or call (800) 736-7401.”
(f) Benefit notices, except those notices where language or format is set forth in statute or specific notice forms adopted by regulation, may be produced in any format developed by the claims administrator. Each such benefit notice shall contain all relevant notice elements required by either statute or regulation. The Administrative Director may make sample notices that comply with these requirements available on the DWC website. Benefit notices using the sample notices devised by the Administrative Director and available on the Division's website are presumed to be adequate notice to the employee and, unless modified, shall not be subject to audit penalties.
(g) Every benefit notice shall have a title at the top of the first page that clearly identifies the subject of the notice. The notice shall also contain the following statement in bold font at the end of the notice: “Keep this notice. It contains important information about your workers' compensation benefits.”
(h) The claims administrator shall provide copies to the employee, upon request, of all medical reports, relevant to any benefit notice issued, or which are not required to be provided along with a notice and have not yet been provided to the employee other than psychiatric reports which the physician has recommended not be provided to the employee.
(i) The claims administrator shall send a copy of each benefit notice, and any enclosures not previously served on the attorney, concurrently to the attorney of any represented employee. Where the claims administrator offers the service, and upon the documented written agreement of the attorney, all benefit notices, including attachments, may be sent electronically in lieu of by mail. An attorney may elect to change the method in which he or she receives benefit notices by giving written notice to the claims administrator.
(j) Any deadline for reply which is measured from the date a notice is sent, and all rights protected within the deadline, are extended if the notice is sent by mail or electronically. The deadline is extended as follows: by 5 days if the place of mailing and the place of address are in the same state of the United States; by 10 days if the place of mailing and the place of address are in different states of the United States; by 20 days if the place of mailing is in and the place of address is outside the United States. All notices shall be mailed from the United States.
(k) Copies of all benefit notices sent to employees shall be maintained by the claims administrator in the claims file. In lieu of retaining a copy of any attachments to the notice, the claims administrator may identify the attachments by name and revision date on the notice. These copies may be maintained in paper or electronic form.
(l) All benefit notices shall be made available in English and Spanish, as appropriate.
(m) Where the claims administrator offers the service, and upon the documented written agreement of the employee, all benefit notices, including attachments, may be sent electronically to the employee in lieu of by mail. The employee's agreement may be documented by provision of a personal email address on the claim form (DWC Form 1) and checking the box agreeing to receive benefit notices electronically. An employee may elect to change the form in which he or she receives benefit notices by giving written notice to the claims administrator.
(n) When the method of service of the benefit notice is electronic, in lieu of regular mail, service shall be through the use of a secure, encrypted email system. The claims administrator shall maintain a log of service dates, and receipt acknowledgements, for each benefit notice sent electronically on each claims file, and will produce this log upon demand to the employee, the employee's attorney, if represented and the DWC Audit Unit. If the claims administrator receives notice that an electronic benefit notice was not delivered to the email address provided by the employee, or attorney, if represented, they shall then send the benefit notice to the employee and attorney by regular mail within one (1) business day of receipt of the failed electronic delivery notice.
(o) Electronic delivery of benefit notices by a claims administrator does not constitute consent to accept electronic service of any communications sent to the claims administrator.
Note: Authority cited: Sections 59, 124, 133, 138.3, 138.4, 4061(a), 4061(b), 4061(d) and 5307.3, Labor Code. Reference: Sections 1010.6 and 1013, Code of Civil Procedure; and Sections 138.4, 4061 and 4650(a)-(d), Labor Code.
1. Repealer of article 8 (sections 9810-9878, not consecutive) and new article 8 (sections 9810-9817) filed 7-15-83; effective thirtieth day thereafter (Register 83, No. 30). For prior history, see Registers 81, No. 42; 79, No. 30; 78, No. 45; 73, Nos. 51 and 38; 72, No. 51; and 66, No. 20.
2. Editorial correction of 7-15-83 order redesignating effective date to 8-1-83 pursuant to Government Code section 11346.2(d) filed 7-19-83 (Register 83, No. 30).
3. Editorial correction of 7-15-83 order filed 8-11-83 (Register 83, No. 33).
4. Amendment of article heading, section and Note filed 1-7-94; operative 1-7-94. Submitted to OAL for printing only pursuant to Government Code section 11351 (Register 94, No. 1).
5. Repealer of subsection (d) and subsection relettering filed 7-7-2004; operative 8-1-2004 pursuant to Government Code section 11343.4 (Register 2004, No. 28).
6. Repealer and new article heading and amendment of section and Note filed 12-11-2007; operative 4-9-2008 (Register 2007, No. 50).
7. Amendment of section and Note filed 8-24-2015; operative 1-1-2016 (Register 2015, No. 35).