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For the past few years, the workers’ compensation community has been watching as the Department of Industrial Relations and the Division of Workers’ Compensation roll out the new electronic system of case management known as EAMS. The departments have spent much time and money in order to launch this new system. Persons involved in the process indicate they have attended many meetings and conferences to make the system user friendly. This “paperless system” is certainly anything but paperless at the present time.

We have heard some of the complaints like the system is off the shelf and is designed for potatoes, not injured workers. The system forms do not provide adequate space to list the proper body parts. It is like putting a square peg in a round hole. There are insufficient licenses for the external users, etc.
We know there is an internal debate at the DWC as to whether the paper “Legacy” files should be scanned and become paperless or whether they should continue to exist until the end of the case.

The DWC has suggested users change their letterhead to reflect the EAMS Uniform Name for each user. For what purpose do we need this? How are the Uniform Names and Numbers to be used? Further, there is a question as to how attorneys are to prepare trial exhibits. The list of complaints can go on and on.

The system is here in a form which is expected to change as new users and old users find flaws and recommend updates. We all expect the DWC will listen to the judges, support staff and outside users to insure proper access to the file information. The DWC has set up a website specifically for EAMS. It is http://www.dir.ca.gov/DWC/eams.

The website contains very good information on the system and is constantly being updated. It is clear that the people in charge are listening to constructive comments from the community and internal users. For instance, one of the issues which has arisen is coordinating an EAMS number with the old WCAB (legacy number). The website now contains a link to specifically search for either the legacy number or the EAMS number.

As any of us who has recently received hearing notices understands, the ADJ number on the hearing notice does not contain the old WCAB number, now known as the legacy number. We can go to the EAMS website and use the tool to locate the cross-referenced numbers. (http://www.dir.ca.gov/dwc/eams/eams-lc/EAMSCases.asp)

We still have a lot of growing pains to endure before the system works out the kinks. Trial exhibits, local rules, judges’ refusal to follow the system, attempts to create uniform codes for body parts on the OCR forms are just a few of the problems we will endure. The system is slow at the present time. Getting an approved settlement document is much slower at the present time. We expect the time frames will improve with increased use and familiarity for the new system.

The system is here and the constant kvetching is not useful. It is what it is. The EAMS plan is designed to replace outdated workers' compensation court technology and supporting infrastructure; shift paper processing to electronic processing; allow files to be shared between multiple users at different access points and different levels; streamline the process of creating files, setting hearings, and serving orders, decisions and awards and be Web-based. (http://www.dir.ca.gov/dwc/EAMS/EAMS_FAQs.htm)

The plan is to allow parties to the case extended hours of access to the case file and provide parties to the case extended electronic filing hours.

Is it working smoothly at the present time? Not in most instances. But, instead of complaining, we, as a community, should provide our input in the proper venues to better improve the system. Merely complaining will not benefit anyone. Constructive recommendations are important. Contacting our computer case management software companies and downloading the newest updates for their programs is important. The software companies are working with the State to make sure their individual systems are compatible with the State system. These companies have a monetary interest in creating effective programs for their customers. Making recommendations to the EAMS support team, as well as our software vendors could help make this transition run smoother.

In our office, we have a point person who reviews the complaints (I mean problems) and works with our staff to attempt to find a solution to the problem. That person then contacts the EAMS site and our software vendor with our concerns.

At this point in time, the DWC is offering programs to get the users up to speed. (http://www.dir.ca.gov/dwc/dwc_newslines/2008/Newsline_55-08.html) CAAA and the CWCDAA are or will be offering training programs. This is a time for learning a new system. We do not have the luxury to refuse to cooperate. If we do not participate and make the system useful and user friendly to the best of our abilities, we will not be in the system. Go to the training workshops and programs and/or send your staff to the training programs. Sit down with your staff and learn the new system. Failure to learn the new procedures may have a negative impact upon your representation for your clients, whether Applicant or defendant.

There are positives in this new system. In the short run, we will be spending more time preparing forms for the WCAB. Keep track of your time. For Applicant counsel, you may need that documentation when requesting attorney fees. For defense counsel, you will need to bill your client for the actual time you worked on the new forms.

Keep in mind EAMS is a marketing opportunity for you and your firm. You will be able to assist your clients in pushing the claim through the new system by your knowledge of the forms, the system, the Boards and what each judge requires. Use this information to your advantage.

We have no choice but to embrace EAMS and try to make it better. Fighting it is not useful unless constructive criticism is provided. Let us use the new system to our benefit and the benefit of our clients. Learn the ropes. It is time to fish or cut bait.


Michael G. McDonald is the founder of McDonald Law Corporation in Concord, California and a Certified Specialist in Workers' Compensation Law, State Bar
of California. He is a Director for the California Workers' Compensation Defense Attorneys Association.

For more information, click here.

Michael G. McDonald, Esq.

McDonald Law Corporation
1800 Sutter Street, Suite 430
Concord, CA 94520-2563
Voice: (925) 363-4380
Fax: (925) 363-4352
Other locations: Sacramento, San Jose and Fresno
http://www.mcdonaldlawcorp.com


EAMS: Be a Winner not a Whiner
by Michael McDonald, Esq.

In this series, Michael G. McDonald, Esq. of the McDonald Law Corporation offers practical advice to WC lawyers and adjustors.
> The Doctor's Office: Chiropractic
> Multiple Impairments & DFEC
> Defense Perspective: EAMS
> Computer Corner:
Getting on Top of ToDos
> Carving up PD: Part II