Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Motel 6 of Justice

Jose Nunez worked as a laborer and driver for Dig Right In Landscaping in Illinois. He claimed that he injured his right shoulder while loading a piece of equipment onto a truck at work in July 2008.

Nunez did not lose any time from work as a result of his injury.

About a month later, Nunez cut his left hand in a work-related accident. He received treatment for this injury from Dr. Hasan Kahn. Dr. Kahn's treatment records contain no mention of shoulder pain complaints or the alleged July 2008 accident.

Dig Right terminated Nunez for cause in September 2008 after learning he was using company equipment to perform "side jobs."

When Dig Right fired him, Nunez made no requests for medical treatment or disability benefits related to his right shoulder.

In March 2009, Nunez sought treatment for right shoulder pain at St. Anthony's hospital. He reported that he had fallen about six months prior, in September 2008. The hospital referred him to an orthopedic surgeon, but Nunez never followed up.

In July 2009, Nunez filed an application for adjustment of claim regarding his alleged July 2008 (or was it September of 2008 ...) injury. His doctor reported that he had a right shoulder impingement. The doctor recommended right shoulder arthroscopy, subacromial decompression and debridement.
"We'll leave the lights on for you..."
Something obviously smelled fishy about this claim and that odiferous feeling didn't escape the trial level arbitrator who found that Nunez's shoulder problems were not causally-related to his July 2008 accident.

The Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission reversed, but a circuit court judge set aside the commission's decision and reinstated the decision of the arbitrator.

On further appeal the Appellate Court ruled that the Commission's award of benefits was not against the manifest weight of the evidence, conceding however that it was "a close case."

It is the exclusive function of the Commission to judge credibility and assign weight to medical opinion testimony, the court said, and the trial judge had erred in setting aside the Commission's award to Nunez.

In other words, Nunez got his benefits.

I've often said that workers' compensation litigation is the poor man's dispute resolution system - when you look at the facts of this case through the glasses I'm wearing this morning, it's pretty obvious that Nunez was upset at getting fired for using company equipment on his own jobs without authorization.

And the latency between the "shoulder injury," the continuity of working post injury date, the fact that there was an intervening industrial injury without mention of a shoulder issue, and the failure of Nunez to follow up on the initial medical referral...

I know there are probably plenty of excuses for this chain of events.

But really, from my vantage point, this is just an example of "sticking it to The Man."
Workers' compensation courts provide an avenue to vent in a relatively civil manner feelings of disparagement, unfairness and wrongdoing. It's not the purpose of work comp, but it is the reality.

Which is why workers' compensation is the Motel 6 of justice. Cheap, no frills and the lights are left on for anyone to check in at any time.

The case is Dig Right In Landscaping v. Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission, No. 1-13-0410 WC, 07/28/2014, published.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Is It Fair and Reasonable?

"In short, denying same-sex couples access to death benefits under the workers’ compensation statute does not bear a fair and substantial relationship to the purposes of the act as identified in Ranney," the Supreme Court of Alaska said in an opinion this week concerning the provision of death benefits to the same-sex partner of a woman who was murdered at her workplace in 2011 even though they weren't married.

In 2005 the court rejected an award to an opposite-sex couple that was not married in Ranney v. Whitewater Engineering.

In this most recent case, Harris v. Millennium Hotel, the court pointed out that opposite-sex couples are permitted to marry under Alaska law, but same-sex couples are not.

Section 25.05.013 of Alaska’s statutes provides that “a same-sex relationship may not be recognized by the state as being entitled to the benefits of marriage.” But, the Supreme Court pulled from precedent opinions that said that the state’s workers’ compensation act used marriage as “an adequate proxy for the more particularized inquiry concerning whether a relationship is serious enough or a partner is sufficiently dependent to justify awarding benefits.”

Because same-sex couples have no access to that proxy, the court ruled that such an individualized inquiry would be needed in cases involving death benefits.

Of course there are going to be critics who will claim such rulings unnecessarily increase the costs of workers' compensation, but the court seemed to weigh that in its analysis as to "fair and substantial relationship," noting the minority statistics of the affected population.
Bowzer's neither fair nor reasonable...
Looking at the broader scope of a state supreme court taking on the most elemental characteristics of a workers' compensation act, a complete fabrication of political contrivance, Alaska's justices have focused on a significant inquiry.

Forget about gay rights - this case isn't about that in my opinion. Whether execution of the state's workers' compensation act bears a "fair and substantial relationship" to the purposes of that act is a BIG question and goes way beyond gay rights.

Yesterday I noted that a few Florida cases were challenging that state's workers' compensation statutes on the grounds that over time, due to many changes in the law, the constitutionality of 440.11 (Florida's work comp title) has eroded.

The same basic argument, albeit in a more legal context, is being made there, 3800 flight miles away: whether operation of Florida's workers' compensation laws bear a fair and substantial relationship to the purposes of that act.

Obviously the plaintiffs in the Florida cases argue that it no longer does.

And the opponents to those Florida suits are going to argue that costs have to be kept in check, and that the legislature has done so with surgical excision of unnecessary components.

While Alaska's justices are not questioning the overall constitutionality of that state's system, they have in one very small part essentially said that it can not meet constitutional analysis.

Most state's workers' compensation acts have as a foundation the state constitution.

The state constitution defines, in a very broad sense, the social obligation.

The Supreme Court in Harris said that obligation is, “to ensure the quick, efficient, fair and predictable delivery of indemnity and medical benefits to injured workers at a reasonable cost to employers,” nearly identical to how I defined it yesterday.

Ask most employer representatives and they'll tell you that the laws fail their part of the bargain - reasonable cost.

And ask most employee representatives and they'll also say the system fails to deliver quick and predictable medical and income benefits.

If both constituencies are correct, then whatever legislative alterations has caused those failures to occur might be challenged along the Alaska Supreme Court's reasoning.

Are we moving into a new era in work comp? I can't tell that, but when both business and labor complain that they are failing to realize any value and that realization is translated into legal challenges, then inquiries into fair and reasonable relations (a subjective standard) get made...

Monday, July 28, 2014

Newton's Challenge

Push too hard, swing the pendulum too far, and the reaction becomes even more extreme.

One of the most famous attributes to Sir Isaac Newton was his elemental statement, "for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction," also known as his third law of physics.

We can't ignore physics - it is the Supreme Law and can not be rewritten or reinterpreted, is not subject to political manipulation or administrative regulatory action.

Newton's Laws of Physics are immutable and they govern everything on Earth, and beyond.

Workers' compensation laws govern only a specific geopolitical entity and those that are subject to that entity's laws. Workers' compensation laws get rewritten, reinterpreted, are the subject of politics and distorted through administrative regulation.

And when a state's workers' compensation laws come in conflict with Newton's Laws of Physics, it's a huge fight ...
Sir Isaac Newton
It's no secret that I have been of the opinion that workers' compensation is in trouble, not just in California, but across the nation, because in my observation the laws are failing to deliver any longer on the original deal: delivery of swift and adequate medical treatment and income benefits to people injured on the job in exchange for employer's immunity from civil suit, for a fair and reasonable price.

Florida, where next month about half of the workers' compensation nation will converge for WCI's 69th Annual Educational Conference, is one state where this collision is playing out in several venues: there's the Westphal and the Castellano cases pending in the state supreme court challenging the limitation on attorney's fees.

And now there is a suit at the trial level where the plaintiff is seeking declaration that the entire system has become unconstitutional over time - that the various reforms over the many years the system has been in existence has served to devalue the workers' compensation program to such a degree that it no longer can be said to meet its constitutionally declared objectives.

The plaintiffs in Julio Cortes vs. Velda Farms allege that the comp system became "unconstitutional as an exclusive remedy in stages," as lawmakers made changes that slowly eroded the benefits and protections available to workers.

The Cortes plaintiffs argue that up until 1968 parties could "opt-out" of participating in the comp system, but when workers' compensation became the exclusive remedy for industrial injuries in 1970, lawmakers did not provide workers with anything in exchange for completely taking away their right to sue.

They further allege that in October 2003 workers lost the ability to receive medical care and compensation for a partial loss of wage-earning capacity. The elimination of partial loss of wage-earning capacity benefits was not replaced by any substitute benefit. "Nothing," is what workers got in exchange for the wholesale loss of an entire category of benefits, the plaintiffs allege.

"Injured workers now receive permanent impairment benefits pursuant to Florida impairment guidelines and nothing else unless the employee is permanently and totally disabled," they argue, and the "limited amount of benefits that are paid currently for permanent impairment are conservatively less than what would have been available under the law in the '70s, and is markedly lower that what's paid in most other states," they add.

Velda defended against the claim on the basis that workers' compensation was Cortes' exclusive remedy. The Florida Workers' Advocates and the Workers' Injury Law & Advocacy Group intervened and provided support, asserting a claim for declaratory relief as to the constitutionality of Section 440.11.

When Velda abandoned its exclusivity defense, FWA and WILG successfully moved to sever the declaratory relief cause of action from Cortes' suit.

Since then the trial judge has issued an order joining the State Attorney General to give the state an opportunity to be heard prior to ruling on a motion for summary judgment brought by the plaintiffs.

At the heart of plaintiff's argument is a 1973 Florida Supreme Court case called Kluger v. White which they are asserting for the principle that anytime the Legislature takes away a right that had previously been guaranteed to the citizens of the state, it must provide a "reasonable alternative."

Using the Kluger case for such a proposition may be overextending that cases holding: that the government cannot take away a remedy that had existed under statutory law predating the adoption of the Declaration of Rights of the Constitution of the State of Florida or under the common law of England as it existed as of July 4, 1776.

Nevertheless this is a huge challenge and likely a fight that is going to continue for some time. The plaintiffs have told WorkCompCentral that even if they win at the summary judgment level it is still just "round one of a 10-round fight."

Thus far any challenge to workers' compensation's constitutionality has been the purview of injured workers but I suspect it won't be long until some employer at some point also challenges the constitutionality of the system for failing to deliver on the original value proposition.

The proponents in these Florida cases have considerable challenges ahead of them, but the plaintiffs are tenacious and determined. With new laws creating new rights and liabilities for both employers and workers, such as FMLA, ADA, ACA, etc., the relevancy of workers' compensation is going to be tested in both practical, and legal, circles for some time to come.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Restoring Faith

So far there have been 27 comments in the Workers' Compensation Roundtable LinkedIn Group following my post about my work "injury."

That was just one work comp group and happened to be the most prolific. Plenty of other comments have been made in other venues.

I never in my wildest dreams would have imagined that my little, slightly sarcastic, muse on being both an employee and employer dealing with the same work injury and ultimately deciding that work comp was the worst of all worlds for dealing with it would create such interest, controversy, engagement and interaction.

But it did.

Some disputed that it could be labeled industrial since it was only a back sprain. Others said to stay out of the work comp system at all costs. And others simply demonstrated a lack of understanding of work comp, at least relative to California law.

No one, though, said that I should file a claim as an employee or report the claim as an employer.

Perhaps that's because everyone is a professional in the system, an insider, and everyone knows that once a claim comes into the system both the employer and the employee lose control to the gaming that every single vendor - insurance company, doctor, lawyer, etc. - will engage in to "do the right thing" according to their special interest.

Certainly there were more "claim denied" or "services denied" responses than I thought would occur.

Just like real life work comp.
Bowzer lost faith
The California Workers' Compensation Appeals Board on Thursday designated a case a "Significant Panel Opinion" because a carrier that had approved nurse case manager services prior to SB 863 unilaterally, and without legal authority, terminated those services because there had been no Utilization Review or Independent Medical Review.

In Patterson v. The Oaks Farm, No. ADJ3905924, Jennifer Patterson had worked as a horse trainer for The Oaks Farm. She suffered serious injuries to her head, neck and spine in 1999 when the horse she was riding tripped and threw her before falling on her and pinning her to a fence.

The Oaks carried workers' compensation coverage through the California Compensation Insurance Co., but the carrier went insolvent in 2003. The California Insurance Guarantee Association then assumed its liabilities.

CIGA and Patterson both stipulated to having Dr. Randolph Noble serve as the agreed medical evaluator for Patterson's workers' compensation claim.

In 2011, Dr. Noble determined that Patterson required nurse case manager services. CIGA initially authorized and provided her with a nurse case manager, but later unilaterally terminated the service.

At an expedited hearing on the issue, the judge found that Patterson's condition had not changed, and so the discontinuation of her nurse case manager services was not warranted. The judge ordered CIGA to resume the provision of nurse case manager services, and CIGA appealed.

A unanimous three member panel denied the appeal.

Newly appointed commissioner, Katherine A. Zalewski, wrote for the panel that an employer or carrier cannot unilaterally cease to provide approved nurse case manager services when there is no evidence of a change in the employee's circumstances or condition showing that the services are no longer reasonably required to cure or relieve the injured worker from the effects of her industrial injury.

Ergo, without such evidence, a carrier can't just stop providing treatment services.

Experts interviewed by WorkCompCentral for this morning's story on the case opined that they weren't sure why this was cited as a Significant Panel opinion because the case simply reiterates what has been long standing law in California - that medical treatment can't be unilaterally terminated.

Richard Jacobsmeyer, founding partner of workers’ compensation defense firm Shaw, Jacobsmeyer, Crain & Claffey in Oakland, said that perhaps the notion that case management is deemed "treatment" as opposed to optional services is what the Board was getting at by designating the case as Significant.

But based on the comments and reactions to my posting about my work injury, I think it comes down to basic education, and a realization by the WCAB that Patterson's plight isn't all that unique; that there is far more delay, denial and obstruction to benefits, particularly if there is any "gray" in a case, than is legally, socially and morally allowed.

Particularly when there really isn't any real threat of penalty, sanction or discipline for doing so.

For those of you that aren't familiar with California law, if I was at work and doing work when an injury occurs, then it's workers' compensation regardless of whether the condition is idiopathic or was pre-existing.

You can't apportion the need for medical treatment in California - even less than 1% of industrial causation is enough to invoke the provision of benefits.

That's the law and that's just the way it is.

But based on the comments to my original injury post, there are few that are willing to accept or recognize that reality, and consequently no one has any trust in the system.

And maybe the WCAB in Patterson knows that, and is trying to restore faith in the system.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Work Comp Isn't Magical

"Enchantment" means of or having a magical influence or characteristic, but New Mexico isn't sure work comp the value and relevancy of workers' compensation is so enchanting - at least not the state's agricultural industry.

New Mexico farmers and ranchers have, so far, not been required to purchase workers' compensation insurance but pressure is on the agricultural sector to step up and participate.

At issue is whether the district court ruling in Griego et al. v. the New Mexico Workers' Compensation Administration applies to the three injured workers in that case alone, or to all agricultural workers in the state.

Bernalillo County Judge Valerie Huling ruled that the provision of New Mexico statute 52-1-6(A), excepting farm and ranch workers from the workers' compensation coverage requirement, violated the state constitution's equal treatment clause.

But Huling said in her decision that she didn't have the authority to hold workers' compensation judges and the state's Uninsured Employers Fund to her ruling because they are separate entities from the Workers' Compensation Administration.

Two pending cases in the state Court of Appeals, where injured agricultural employees have sued their employers for not providing workers' compensation coverage, may answer that question.

The cases - Rodriguez v. Brand West Dairy and Aguirre v. M.A. & Sons Chile Products - are dividing labor and business.

New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty Staff Attorney Maria Sanchez told WorkCompCentral that the Greigo ruling is applicable statewide, and not just as to the three workers in that case.

Sanchez said her law center plans to file an injunction for Huling to extend the decision at least to the UEF.
Land of enchantment?
An amicus curiae brief in the Rodriguez case argues that not only is the provision constitutional, but it shouldn't apply to the defendant relying on the interpretation of "equal protection" in precedent, asserting that the workers failed to prove that they, as farm workers, were in a similar situation to other employees whose employers are required to provide insurance.

"Simply stated, the employer and UEF were not parties to the Griego litigation and, therefore, are not bound by that decision," the brief reads. "Employer and UEF were not parties to the Griego litigation and did not have the opportunity to be heard by Judge Huling in regard to the issues resolved by Judge Huling's opinion and in regard to the issues presented by this WCC."

The amicus brief also argues that administrating the workers' compensation insurance requirement for farm and ranch workers would be burdensome and costly to the system – particularly because of the challenges of working with agriculture employees who move frequently.

"If the worker is moving around regularly, where should the injured worker be provided medical care and treatment, i.e., at or near the town/city where the accident happened or at different location(s) where the injured worker may be living throughout the life of the claim?" amici say.

A lot of states have already dealt with migratory workers and the fact that when, where and by whom should a worker get treatment has not impeded mandatory coverage.

The real issue in my mind is not whether workers' compensation should be mandatorily imposed on all employers, but whether business finds value in the coverage.

Clearly, those ranchers and farmers that support the amicus filing don't believe that workers' compensation is of any benefit to them - but we have seen that before: business doesn't value the exclusive remedy of work comp until they get sued civilly and have to make good on a big judgment not covered by any insurance.

Just as clearly, the migratory farm workers, those at the relative bottom of the food chain in the economy, do find value in the protections of work comp. New Mexico's system is vastly more simple than big state systems so the deterrence to filing a claim and seeking benefits isn't as looming.

According to a Wikipedia entry, cattle, sheep, and other livestock graze most of the arable land of the state throughout the year and based on 2004 tax receipts the agricultural industry is the 20th largest grossing business sector, with about $72 million in taxable revenue.

Gross business taxable receipts for the state in 2004 were about $39.5 billion, so realistically agriculture is only about 0.18% of the total economy of the state - but the issue is whether workers in that small sector are entitled to the same protections as a worker in mineral extraction ($1.3 billion in receipts) or retail ($12 billion).

Obviously we in the industry find relevancy and value in work comp because it's how we make our living. Does the rest of the world see it that way? Oklahoma, Texas, and perhaps New Mexico may not.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

So Long Norman

It was announced yesterday that the head ombudsman for Texas injured workers, Norman Darwin, is going to retire this year, at the end of August.

While Darwin is certainly entitled to retire - after all he is 76 years old and has been in the comp system in Texas for well over 40 years - the state will be losing one of the strongest advocates for injured workers I've known, and his shoes are going to be very, very hard to fill.

I've only met Darwin a couple of times, and each time I was singularly impressed with his focused determination and passion for making sure those injured on the job received the full benefit of the system.

Darwin had a very successful law practice prior to joining public service. He was well known in Texas as one of the brightest, most tenacious lawyers in the system. To him it was not at all about the fee - it was all about his client.

And I use the singular context purposely - when Darwin was on a case, his mind was on THAT case.

How do I know this? I've only met the man twice. And I'm generally not a good judge of character, unfortunately.
Norman Darwin
But I could tell from talking with the man just how committed he can be, and how doggedly he would fight, particularly if he really thought his client was being treated unfairly.

While the Texas insurance community disputes the reports that Darwin shepherded as head of the Office of Injured Employee Counsel, particularly the latest reports wherein OIEC criticizes the success rate of injured workers in adjudicated hearings, his tenure in the office, and now his impending retirement, demonstrates the significant polarity in workers' compensation.

My Texas insurance friends are probably going to chastise me for this, but while the state is very, very good for insurance companies writing work comp (how many states can claim an overall combined ratio of less than 100, and not just once, but for several successive years in a row?) there's a story that is heard far too commonly - too many injured workers get the shaft.

The statistics don't really tell the full story because they are skewed by the success rate of minor injuries. Those who get cuts and bruises and generally are just medical only claims are, like in most states, handled just fine.

Those who have more severe injury claims (note I said "claims"), however, have a much tougher time, particularly if there's any scintilla of dispute about industrial origin.

As Darwin noted:

“I’ve practiced comp law for over 40 years, and (I had) never heard of an extent-of-injury defense asserted one single time. And the law’s not changed in that regard at all. Since 1913, the law hadn’t changed.

“But the interpretation of that law got changed in about 2008, 2009, somewhere in that time frame. And the claimants’ ability to have a successful claim just dropped to the very floor.”

And there aren't that many Texas lawyers helping injured workers out any longer because the fees can't justify a business of work comp representation.

OIEC was established to help those in the middle, but they can't directly represent injured workers. Still providing legal counsel is a huge help, and Darwin made that happen.

A lawyer friend of mine contacted me the other day - she assists employers reduce their workers' compensation costs by implementing strategies to both control the claim, and control the carrier. She tells me, after being contacted by an injured worker that bought her book to learn the other side of the fence, that had she not had two friends go through the work comp rigamarole and a relative being put through the ringer in an auto case of uncontested liability, that she would not have believed the injured worker's tale of denials, delays, and mal-treatment.

And yet, when I posted about my little back injury (now pretty much resolved, and thanks to all who sent me get well wishes), the posted comments on LinkedIn were sharply divided: either I didn't have a claim at all and it should be denied, or just stay out of the system and get real treatment.

Yep - benefits DENIED! Though sharply divided literally, the contextual message was frighteningly singular: Take your claim elsewhere because the work comp system doesn't want you.

Either outright, or via surreptitiousness, the message I got as an injured worker is to go away.

Curiously I didn't get much feedback as the employer of that injured worker...

I'm surprised Darwin lasted this long. If he didn't have such extraordinary energy, compassion and resolve to do the right thing, to protect those injured on the job, and to make the system work for those it was intended to protect, he would have hung up the towel long ago.

Norman, I didn't get the pleasure of knowing you but for a couple of all too brief encounters. But I know lots of injured workers got to know you much better which may be good, but unfortunately is probably a sad testimonial.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Forms Imperative: Reduce Clutter

The California Division of Workers' Compensation is finally getting around to moving forward with revising various notices that go to injured workers.

This is a project started long ago, following a 2010 report from the Commission on Health, Safety and Workers' Compensation that critiqued regulations that led to notices it said were overly wordy and sometimes redundant, as well as “complex, frightening, vague (and) confusing,” and overdue - but the DWC got side tracked by a little project called SB 863.

The division first proposed the rules in April 2013 by posting them in draft form on its online forum.

Of course with the possibility of new forms, everyone has to get their say in to make sure that their special interests are represented.

Applicant attorneys want to be sure that at every step of the way the injured worker knows that they have the right to an attorney and that there are as many forms or other communications sent to injured workers as possible every step of the way.

Employer groups want to be sure that anything concerning websites or alternative means of communication are "if available."

In the meantime the division seems focused on some potential cost savings simplifying and minimizing forms.
Clutter - I hate clutter.
DWC thinks new forms and regulations could reduce litigation and save an estimated $15 million a year, although it admits in its Statement of Reasons that this is just a WAG:


“However, the lack of empirical data on the extent of attorney involvement and litigation before benefit notices reached their current level of complexity, in the mid-1990s, in addition to the difficulty in ascertaining the current level of litigation driven by complicated benefit notices as opposed to amount of compensation paid, casts doubt on the study’s assumptions,” the division said in its Initial Statement of Reasons. “Lower savings are more probable, although there is no accurate means to forecast or identify savings directly due to the regulation’s improvements after they become effective.”

CHSWC has said that revising benefit notice regulations could reduce legal defense expenses by $43 million a year, based on estimated savings of 5% from the $867 million carriers paid in defense litigation costs in 2008.

I know everyone likes to talk about costs - whether something will reduce, increase or shift costs. But making the discussion about costs in this context interferes with the ultimate goal of revising forms that are more simple but still communicate effectively statutorily mandated language.

One of the biggest conversation problems in workers' compensation is the seemingly orchestrated concert about costs - whether this change will increase or reduce costs, etc. It seems that every little regulatory or legislative move makes the melody all about costs.

Forget about costs. Talk about value. Value is partially about costs, but also about return on investment. If X dollars are input, then we want to see Y result returned.

DWC for its part sort of does this in its most recent forms proposals by projecting that there will be less confusion which results in less litigation - though admittedly there is no empirical evidence to back this up.

Still, that the community is engaged in producing better forms to lead to better communications is encouraging.

I don't know how DWC comes up with the graphical elements of its forms, but my guess based on form layout and knowing how government operates is that someone within the Division was tasked with the job using a word processor program.

That's a tough job - because word processing programs are inherently deficient in dealing with graphical elements such as layout, borders, font changes, etc.

What about giving the task to a real artist - someone who is trained and makes a living at design graphics using modern programs such as Adobe Illustrator or InDesign; something that was made for preparing graphical layout?

I look at the current proposed Claim Form, and while it is a bit better than previous versions it still makes my head spin: too much information in too small of a space; i.e. clutter.

I hate clutter. Reminds me of hoarding which makes me uncomfortable.

My guess is that a good graphic artist can render the Claim Form into a much cleaner, more easily digested form while still meeting statutory and regulatory requirements than a DWC employee. For one, graphic artists look at a sheet of paper much differently than you or I. For another, someone thinking outside the box won't be stifled by prior versions.

The DWC will hear testimony on the proposed rules during a public hearing on Sept. 3 at 10 a.m. in the auditorium of the Elihu Harris state office building, 1515 Clay St. in Oakland.

Public comment will be accepted until 5 p.m. on Sept. 3. Comments can be mailed to Maureen Gray, regulations coordinator, Department of Industrial Relations, Division of Workers' Compensation, P.O. Box 420603, San Francisco, CA 94142.

Comments can also be sent by fax to 510-285-0687 or by email to dwcrules@dir.ca.gov.

The rulemaking notice, Initial Statement of Reasons and proposed rules and notice forms are here.

The draft rules and public comments from 2013 are here.