(a) Except as provided in subdivisions (b) and (d), the hearing shall be held not less than 10 days, and not more than 60 days, after the date a declaration of readiness to proceed, on a form prescribed by the appeals board, is filed. If a claim form has been filed for an injury occurring on or after January 1, 1990, and before January 1, 1994, an application for adjudication shall accompany the declaration of readiness to proceed.
(b) The administrative director shall establish a priority calendar for issues requiring an expedited hearing and decision. A hearing shall be held and a determination as to the rights of the parties shall be made and filed within 30 days after the declaration of readiness to proceed is filed if the issues in dispute are any of the following, provided that if an expedited hearing is requested, no other issue may be heard until the medical provider network dispute is resolved:
(1) The employee's entitlement to medical treatment pursuant to Section 4600, except for treatment issues determined pursuant to Sections 4610 and 4610.5.
(2) Whether the injured employee is required to obtain treatment within a medical provider network.
(3) A medical treatment appointment or medical-legal examination.
(4) The employee's entitlement to, or the amount of, temporary disability indemnity payments.
(5) The employee's entitlement to compensation from one or more responsible employers when two or more employers dispute liability as among themselves.
(6) Any other issues requiring an expedited hearing and determination as prescribed in rules and regulations of the administrative director.
(c) The administrative director shall establish a priority conference calendar for cases in which the employee is represented by an attorney or is or was employed by an illegally uninsured employer and the issues in dispute are employment or injury arising out of employment or in the course of employment. The conference shall be conducted by a workers' compensation administrative law judge within 30 days after the declaration of readiness to proceed. If the dispute cannot be resolved at the conference, a trial shall be set as expeditiously as possible, unless good cause is shown why discovery is not complete, in which case status conferences shall be held at regular intervals. The case shall be set for trial when discovery is complete, or when the workers' compensation administrative law judge determines that the parties have had sufficient time in which to complete reasonable discovery. A determination as to the rights of the parties shall be made and filed within 30 days after the trial.
(d) (1) In all cases, a mandatory settlement conference, except a lien conference or a mandatory settlement lien conference, shall be conducted not less than 10 days, and not more than 30 days, after the filing of a declaration of readiness to proceed. If the dispute is not resolved, the regular hearing, except a lien trial, shall be held within 75 days after the declaration of readiness to proceed is filed.
(2) The settlement conference shall be conducted by a workers' compensation administrative law judge or by a referee who is eligible to be a workers' compensation administrative law judge or eligible to be an arbitrator under Section 5270.5. At the mandatory settlement conference, the referee or workers' compensation administrative law judge shall have the authority to resolve the dispute, including the authority to approve a compromise and release or issue a stipulated finding and award, and if the dispute cannot be resolved, to frame the issues and stipulations for trial. The appeals board shall adopt any regulations needed to implement this subdivision. The presiding workers' compensation administrative law judge shall supervise settlement conference referees in the performance of their judicial functions under this subdivision.
(3) If the claim is not resolved at the mandatory settlement conference, the parties shall file a pretrial conference statement noting the specific issues in dispute, each party's proposed permanent disability rating, and listing the exhibits, and disclosing witnesses. Discovery shall close on the date of the mandatory settlement conference. Evidence not disclosed or obtained thereafter shall not be admissible unless the proponent of the evidence can demonstrate that it was not available or could not have been discovered by the exercise of due diligence prior to the settlement conference.
(e) In cases involving the Director of Industrial Relations in his or her capacity as administrator of the Uninsured Employers Fund, this section shall not apply unless proof of service, as specified in paragraph (1) of subdivision (d) of Section 3716, has been filed with the appeals board and provided to the Director of Industrial Relations, valid jurisdiction has been established over the employer, and the fund has been joined.
(f) Except as provided in subdivision (a), this section shall apply irrespective of the date of injury.
(Amended by Stats. 2014, Ch. 156, Sec. 1.)