Workers' compensation disputes go to medical examiner

Disputes between Huntington Beach and its employees over workers' compensation can now be resolved through independent medical examiners rather than by the state.

The City Council on Monday voted to enter into an alternative form of dispute resolution, which lets police officers and firefighters in the middle of disputes with the city to opt out of the state compensation program's medical review process.

The agreement allows independent medical examiners to review the case and make a decision that the city and the employee would have to accept, said Human Resources Director Michele Carr. The independent examiners would have to abide by state law.

Opting to use an independent medical examiner will reduce the time the city and employee wait for a state doctor to get to the case and resolve the claim, Carr said.

In the case of a dispute, the employee and the city would agree to avoid the state's process and instead use a medical examiner with whom parties feel comfortable in resolving the claim.

The city would save money using the independent medical examiner because it cuts down the time and the continuance of salary that is paid to the injured worker while off-duty, Carr said.

But that saving is offset by the premium paid to the independent medical examiner to review the case, she said.

The city of Long Beach cut by two-thirds the waiting time when it switched to independent medical examiners, Carr said.

The program is expected to come back to the council for approval once the state approves the pilot program.


Distance Derby run

The council also voted to enter into an agreement with Pacific Shoreline Marathon LLC to expand the annual Distance Derby into a premier Southern California running event, according to a city staff report.

The city is looking to open the derby to more runners this year and change the venue from the beach service road to Pacific Coast Highway, the report said.

PCH is expected to accommodate a minimum of 3,600 runners.

Pacific Shoreline Marathon, which owns Surf City Marathon, will promote the event and expand it for the city. City staff is working with the California Department of Transpiration to obtain a permit to close PCH.

The city hopes to attract 8,500 runners by 2013, the staff report said.


New responsibility

The council also voted to put the city manager in charge of scheduling Public Works Commission appeals. The city clerk had been arranging the meetings for the council.

The change cuts down the process because the city manager is directly involved with department heads and is more aware of their schedule, said City Clerk Joan Flynn.


Mobile Home Advisory Board

The council also appointed Dan Kalmick to serve as interim resident-at-large to the city's Mobile Home Advisory Board for the remaining term, which is set to expire Aug. 5.

Councilmen Joe Shaw and Keith Bohr, who serve as liaisons to the board, made the recommendation.

The board addresses quality-of-life issues for those living in Huntington Beach's 18 mobile home parks.

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