Workers' Compensation Insurers' Task Force -3- September 15, 2004Minutes
Krause said they have tried to change the scheduling system so the judges have moreinfluence on how things get scheduled. With the system they were using, it was hard to block-assigna case, so that when a judge was assigned a case they would have everything from the firstprehearing and all the way through. They thought it would be more efficient and would cut down onthe number of continuances and on the number of misunderstandings when a case bounces from one judge to another before it actually gets to a hearing. They are now block-assigning cases, so as soonas it is certified to the hearing division, cases are assigned to a judge and all of the prehearings andthe continuances stay with that judge; there is no incentive for an "ugly" case to be continued andhope another judge gets it. The incentive is to face it straight up, deal with it and move it through thesystem more quickly. Hopefully, this will not affect the practice before them in any significant wayand their customers will not notice any changes. These are internal structural things that will allowthem to deliver the service more efficiently and keep the process moving at a pace that gets thesecases heard in a timely way throughout the system.Meg Kasting asked it they had actually made the divisions yet. Krause said, because theircases are set so far out, they are still working through the cases that had already been set. They knowwho is going to be in which division, but that will not happen until November, so they can work through the cases the judges who are going into the settlement area already have on their calendar.Kasting asked if there would be an announcement in November about which judges are in eachdivision. Krause said they could and noted there would be five full-time judges in the settlementdivision, which is one more than they currently have doing settlements now. He believes the better job they do with settlement, the faster and more positive the resolution of cases will be. Also, it ismore time-consuming for cases to go through the hearing division, so they will focus on settlementand only do those cases in hearings that really require a hearing and cannot be settled.Rangel asked Krause what his goal was on the timeframe for hearings by November. Krausesaid they set their cases in the settlement division about five to six months out, because of thestatutory time allowed for getting the IME in and cases are just not ready to be discussed seriouslybefore that. If they do try to push it earlier, they end up resetting the cases. If a case goes throughsettlement and the parties decide no settlement is possible and it gets certified to the hearing, they arewilling at any point to have it go back to settlement or the mediation department there, or elsewhereif that is what the parties want to do, if something changes and the parties decide to take anothercrack at settling the case. Being certified to the hearing division does not mean that is your onlyoption. They are still happy to work out a settlement. After a case gets certified, their goal is to havecases set for their first hearing in no more than six months. It takes that long to get the depositionsand medicals, etc. It has not been practical to do it sooner than that and, in their experience, they endup getting resets all of the time if they push it sooner than six months. He noted, with theircompliment of judges reduced by six, that is practically as much as they can get. If you put the twotogether, you will have 13 months or so, from the time the claim is filed until the case goes tohearing. That is where they have been running and they hope to continue to do that and, where theycan, improve upon that. To give some perspective, Krause noted three to four years ago, it was 16 to18 months before you got to a hearing. They have been able to get that down to 12 to 13 monthsstatewide in the past two or three years. Doing that is not only a nice accomplishment, in Krause'sopinion, but is fairly remarkable with the budget, staff and judge cuts. They have actually improvedthe time to hearing period with six fewer judges than they were doing 16 to 18 months ago.Rangel asked how many hearing judges we currently have. Krause said there were 24 andthat includes the five they have in settlements.