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Should Electronic Production of Records be Mandatory?

November 8th, 2013

Once in a rare while, one of the parties in a workers’ compensation case are not happy with the primary treating physician’s decisions with respect to any host of issues.  Whether the parties go to an Agreed Medical Evaluator or a Panel Qualified Medical Evaluator, there’s typically a WHOLE lot of paper.

First, the defendant will flood applicant’s counsel with every scrap of paper subpoenaed, every page of every deposition transcript, all past awards, past-injury medical reports, etc.  Then, the defense will typically send that same giant stack of paper to the PQME.  (See California Code of Regulations section 35)

So, if once all legal documents were written by hand, and now we require all represented legal proceeding to go forward by type-print (does anyone still use a typewriter?), why can’t we move past that and require QMEs to accept electronic copies of documents?

After all, anyone who doesn’t care about all the trees that go into the paper-mill probably cares about all the money and time wasted on reproducing these records and shipping them over (not once, but at least twice – and that’s only if there is one QME and one applicant and no other defendants).

So, since we don’t hesitate to regulate almost every aspect of the QME process, from report contents to evaluation locations to days for a report, why not require QMEs to accept electronic versions of records?  If the QME really needs to, he or she can print them out.  Otherwise, just read them on the computer and safe yourself the filing cabinet space and the paper.

Additionally, by providing records via an electronic link (see, for example , the file sharing abilities of a Dropbox account), the other side can make sure that no records were sent to the QME that weren’t first sent to the other parties.

After all, the Bar and Supreme Court already require all lawyers to have e-mail addresses, and a (regularly ignored) Rule of Court requires a declaration that all filing were made on recycled paper.

Perhaps it’s time to make the default approach paperless, and simply place the burden of printing out and wasting paper on the individual QMEs and attorneys.

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