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Workers' Compensation Appeals Board (WCAB)


Organization| Members | Function | Procedure | Caseload

1. Petitions for reconsideration

The chairman is required by statute to assign cases in which reconsideration is sought to panels of three members for decision. Such assignments must be rotated on a case-by-case basis to the end that "the composition of the members so assigned (is) varied and changed (and) that there shall never be a fixed and continued composition of members."

Petitions for reconsideration are received by the Appeals Board's control unit which assigns them in strict rotation to one of the many possible combinations of three Appeals Board members. The case is then taken to the first member of the panel who is allowed three days to make a decision. The case then goes to the next member of the panel who makes a decision within two days and passes the case to the third. If, after all three members have acted, two or more agree on a disposition, the case goes to the Appeals Board staff for preparation of a written decision. If there is no concurrence, the case is recirculated or the panel members confer.

The panel may take the following actions with regard to a petition for reconsideration:

A. Deny the petition

1. By adopting the report and recommendation of the workers' compensation judge, or
2. By an opinion of its own.

B. Grant reconsideration and simultaneously issue a decision after reconsideration on the existing record. The decision after reconsideration may consist of an order rescinding the decision under attack and returning the case to a workers' compensation judge for further proceedings and decision.

C. Grant reconsideration for further proceedings which may consist of

1.Rehearing to take additional evidence
2.Additional medical examination
3.Obtaining a recommended permanent disability rating
4.Further study
5.Reassignment to the Board as a whole for decision, or
6. Other action necessary to complete the record.

D. Dismiss petition:

1. Not a final order
2. Untimely
3. Other miscellaneous reasons

If reconsideration is to be denied or a simultaneous decision after reconsideration is to issue, the case is assigned to an attorney for preparation of an appropriate decision or the decision is written by a commissioner.

Petitions for disqualification of workers' compensation judges and petitions for removal are similarly processed.

If further proceedings are required after service of the order granting reconsideration, the case is returned for completion of whatever further proceedings are required. When the case is eventually submitted ready for decision., it is recirculated to the panel for decision. When there is concurrence as to what the decision is to be, a decision after reconsideration is prepared and circulated.

2. Petitions for removal

If a party feels it will suffer substantial prejudice of irreparable harm from a non-final order of a workers' compensation judge, it may file a petition for removal. These cases typically involve rulings on procedural matters, such a discovery and admissibility of evidence, for which a petition for reconsideration would be inappropriate. In recent years, these petitions have become increasingly numerous.

3. Appellate function

The appeals board must, on a regular basis, make appearances before the appellate courts. These appearances primarily involve writs taken from appeals board decisions as well as other legal matters involving the WCAB.

4. Miscellaneous functions

The appeals board has jurisdiction to act in matters such as disciplinary and contempt cases, changes in the rules, and requests for exhumations and autopsies.

September 2007