A series of articles emphasizing practical
knowledge you can't find in practice guides
and interviews with experts who share
their techniques for effective and efficient
Articles emphasizing practical knowledge you
can't find in practice guides
Profiles of people who changed workers’
• Marjory Harris
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
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
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
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
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