Improving Dispute Resolution for California's Injured Workers: Executive Summary

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For more than two decades, the workers' compensation courts increasingly have been perceived as a weak link in the California workers' compensation system. The courts have been criticized for being slow, expensive, and procedurally inconsistent. In response to these concerns, the California Commission on Health and Safety and Workers' Compensation engaged the RAND Institute for Civil Justice to conduct a top-to-bottom review of the workers' compensation courts in the state. The research team analyzed the causes of delay in the resolution of workers' compensation disputes, the reasons for the high costs of litigation, and why procedures are inconsistent across the state. They found that the courts' problems stem largely from severe understaffing, the failure to upgrade their management information system, and a lack of clear guidance and coordination in the governing rules and procedures. The study team proposes a number of recommendations for change (covering areas such as staffing, technology, judicial training, calendaring, continuance policies, internal office practices, and case management) that are designed to improve the process of dispute resolution for California's injured workers.

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