Loyola University hosted its annual “Day with the DOL” seminar on Tuesday, December 8th in New Orleans, Louisiana. The panelists at this year’s seminar included Administrative Law Judge Patrick Rosenow, David Duhon, District Director of the 7th Compensation District, OWCP, Mouledoux, Bland, Legrand, & Brackett’s very own Alan Brackett, and Jeffery Briscoe of the Law Offices of Art Brewster.
The panelists talked the attendees through the claims process at the Office of Workers’ Compensation Program level, which includes attending Informal Conferences with claims examiners, and submitting settlement agreements to the District Director for review. Among the many practice points discussed, District Director Duhon emphasized the timeliness requirements for filing standard Department of Labor pleadings throughout the life of a claim. For example, in order to avoid penalties, a Longshore employer must file a Form LS-202, Employer’s First Report of Injury, within 10 days of a work-related injury that leads to lost time. District Director Duhon cautioned that an employer should follow the “better safe than sorry” method when reporting workplace injuries. He also cautioned that, in accordance with Section 14(f) of the Act, the employer/carrier shall pay a claimant an award within 10 days of the service of the District Director’s Order, or else a penalty in the amount of 20% of the award will be assessed against the Employer and Carrier. As a practice point, Mr. Brackett noted that many Carriers first send the award checks to counsel prior to submission of the Settlement Agreement to the District Director for review. District Director Duhon also requested that counsel pay special attention to the requests for documentation made by claims examiners, as required by Section 30(b).
The panelists also addressed the often-litigated issues of attorney’s fees. The attendees, which included members of both claimants’ bar and defense bar, discussed the intricacies of proper attorney fee submission. For example, Mr. Brackett suggested that more detailed entries are less vulnerable to objection by defense counsel. Judge Rosenow acknowledged the delays often associated with fee petition adjudication at the Office of Administrative Law Judges and indicated that the claimants’ bar can expect to see a more timely review process implemented.
Judge Rosenow also addressed the OALJ’s current caseload, advising the attendees that the Longshore docket might soon be hampered by the influx of Black Lung claims. The attendees acknowledged, as a practice point, that any anticipated delay in setting hearing dates might prompt settlement of more claims prior to formal hearings. The panelists also instructed the attendees on the use of the newly-implemented OALJ online search function, which allows a user to search a claim’s status and the documents previously filed. While the search function is not yet as technologically advanced as the DOL’s SeaPortal site, it is highly efficient.
Overall, the panel discussion was quite informative and beneficial to all those in attendance. For any questions related to the discussion, or for practical advice for litigating at the OWCP or OALJ level, please feel free to contact us.