Prepare your case
Once an appeal is registered, validated and assessed, the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Tribunal (WCAT):
- Invites everyone who may be directly affected by an appeal to participate
- Tells WorkSafeBC to give appeal parties access to all the information in the WorkSafeBC file under appeal, including documents, medical reports, phone conversations, medical records, etc.
WCAT will also send a letter to all parties to let them know what to do next:
- The appellant needs to submit evidence along with a summary of the outcome they want and an explanation of how/why the evidence or WorkSafeBC policies support their case. Submission deadlines depend on whether the appeal will be considered by written submission or at an oral hearing
- Respondents have 14 days to join the appeal before WCAT continues with the appeal process
- Start gathering information and evidence right away. Some information requests take a long time to process, especially requests for medical information. You might also consider asking for help with this step
- Send new evidence to WCAT or answer any questions about the appeal
- You can request payment for costs to get new written evidence (e.g. a report or letter from an expert like a doctor)
- Include all relevant information and evidence with your submission – make sure WCAT will receive everything by the deadline
- All documents must be in English – if they’re not, have them translated and sent to WCAT along with a signed translator’s declaration. Do not use a friend or relative as a translator. You can request payment for translation costs
- Only provide information or evidence related to issues about the decision from WorkSafeBC or the Review Division
- Only provide new information or evidence that isn’t already in the WorkSafeBC file
- Include the WorkSafeBC claim or file number and the WCAT appeal number on everything you send – if you include photos, provide a description of what’s being shown and the date the photos were taken
- Keep your contact information current, including details about your representative
Review the WorkSafeBC file
You will receive an email that explains when and how to access to the WorkSafeBC file online. If you do not have email or access to the internet, or if you are not able to look at large files on a computer, contact WCAT to ask for a paper copy of the file.
Once you receive the entire WorkSafeBC file, review all the material in it. This will tell you what evidence and WorkSafeBC policies were used to make the decision that is being appealed. You can then decide what new evidence you might want to provide. You do not need to send information or evidence that’s already in the WorkSafeBC file.
The vice chair making the decision for the appeal will also access the WorkSafeBC file and review it before making a decision.
Do a bit of research
Develop a stronger, more convincing case by researching information that applies to the appeal.
Make notes about past appeals or decisions that you think are relevant to the situation – which facts are similar, and which are not. Write down the appeal number and the policies that support your case.
Some past decisions have been identified as “noteworthy decisions” because they deal with an important point or give a useful explanation of how law and policy is applied. WCAT is not required to follow past decisions, but noteworthy decisions may be persuasive.
- Search past appeal decisions > Filter search results by selecting “noteworthy decisions”
Write down all the laws or policies that apply to the appeal. Describe important facts about the situation and how they relate to each law or policy. For example, when you apply the law or policy to the facts, what conclusion can you make?
Find information about specific laws and policies:
- The Workers Compensation Act and Regulations
- WorkSafeBC policies guide how to apply the Workers Compensation Act when making decisions
- WorkSafeBC compensation practice directives highlight the objective, principle or requirement included in a policy or piece of legislation for compensation-related matters
The vice chair deciding your appeal will look at information, statements and documents. This is called evidence. Here are some examples:
Witnesses can provide evidence at a meeting called an oral hearing. They say what happened and answer questions. Prepare your questions for witnesses before the hearing.
Think of people who have personal knowledge of the facts you want to prove. For example:
- Who was there and saw the event?
- Are there people who can confirm what happened?
You will probably be the main witness for your case.
- Plan how you will explain what happened
- Make a list of all the points you want to cover
This evidence is more reliable and will help your case more than evidence from people who can only tell what they heard from someone else.
You may also have a witness who did not actually see an event, but they saw the result. For example, they saw a worker lying on the ground at the bottom of a ladder. From this, it could be understood that the worker fell from the ladder.
Witnesses need to provide facts. Their opinions about happened are not helpful.
Witnesses can submit written statements or let WCAT know that you would like to have an oral hearing for witnesses to provide evidence.
Witnesses can also give evidence in writing. They could:
- Write a signed letter
- Provide a written statement made under oath or affirmation. This is called an affidavit
Expert evidence is an opinion from someone with specialized education, training or experience in a specific area. For example, a health care professional, vocational rehabilitation consultant, engineer or accountant.
Written reports or documents from experts can be provided as evidence. They do not need to attend an oral hearing.
- If there is an oral hearing, the written report must be provided at least 21 days before the hearing. If that’s not possible, you must explain why
- If you write to an expert to ask for evidence, also provide a copy of your letter to WCAT
You don’t need expert evidence to prove some facts. For example, you could:
- Give evidence about your symptoms and how they affect you, but only a doctor can diagnose the symptoms
- Give evidence about how a job is done, but an ergonomic specialist, like a kinesiologist, would explain any risk of soft tissue injury from the job duties
Medical evidence is a type of expert evidence from a health care professional such as a doctor, psychologist, chiropractor, physiotherapist, kinesiologist, occupational therapist or dentist.
An expert’s medical report may include:
- A diagnosis of a condition and an opinion on whether a work event or activity caused that condition
- An opinion about physical or psychological disability
Medical evidence isn’t just medical reports. It can include:
- Chart notes from anyone who has provided treatment, including hospital records
- Imaging reports like CT scans, MIRIs or x-rays
You might submit new medical evidence if the appeal requires additional medical evidence to fully answer questions like:
- What caused the medical condition?
- What is the diagnosis of the injury or disease?
- What treatment is needed for the injury or disease?
HOW TO GET EVIDENCE FROM AN EXPERT
Step 1: Ask to meet with the expert or write them a letter. Explain how information or an opinion from them could help. Give them information to describe the situation. For example:
- Specific questions about your medical condition that need to be answered
- The decisions from WorkSafeBC and the Review Division that are being appealed
- Information from the WorkSafeBC file about the appeal that could help form their opinion, such as relevant medical evidence on the WorkSafeBC file
- Photos, videos or diagrams of the worksite or work tasks (you could also demonstrate work tasks or invite them to visit a work site)
Decisions from WorkSafeBC and the Review Division that are being appealed
- WorkSafeBC policies that apply to the appeal. For example, WorkSafeBC policy provides a list of risk factors to consider when determining whether a soft tissue disorder of the limbs (e.g. tendinitis) is related to a worker’s employment. This may help the medical expert understand what information they might need to include when answering the questions you have asked
Step 2: Explain how information or an opinion from them could help. Ask them to explain:
- Their qualifications
- How they know you and how familiar they are with the case
- The facts that their opinion is based on
- Their opinion on the specific questions about your medical condition and the reasons for their opinion
- If their opinion is different from other expert evidence, an explanation of why
- Any other information or opinions that may be helpful
EXPERT OPINIONS AND THE FINAL DECISION
The vice chair considers all evidence about the appeal issues when making a decision.
They will decide how much significance to give to an expert opinion by considering:
- The training, education and qualifications of the person giving the opinion
- Whether the facts behind an opinion are clearly set out, accurate, and complete, with any inconsistencies carefully explained
- Whether the opinion addresses the issue that requires medical input, for example, the diagnosis of an injury
Any other documents or files can be used as evidence to support your position in the appeal. For example, you could use:
- Photos or video evidence of a worksite where an injury occurred or where WorkSafeBC issued an order for violating safety regulations (for prevention appeals)
- Workplace investigation reports such as an employer’s investigation into bullying or harassment, a police investigation, a coroner’s report, or noise exposure data
- First aid reports
- Financial records including payroll records for assessment, documents that outline retirement plans for issues related to age 65, pay slips to show a worker’s earnings or wage rate before and at the time of the injury
- Emails or text messages. Make sure to include the entire text or email conversation
- Safety records such as toolbox meetings, an occupational health and safety worksite manual, or employee safety training records (for prevention appeals)
- Manufacturer’s specifications, including manuals or details for equipment or materials that contributed to an injury or occupational disease, or material safety data sheets listing potential hazards for chemical or like products that are claimed to have caused an exposure or injury
A worker, employer or dependent of a deceased worker participating in an appeal can ask the vice chair to arrange for a health professional to give independent assistance or advice. The worker’s medical condition must be an issue in the appeal to make a request.
For example, a medical opinion from someone other than the worker’s regular doctor can help find out:
- If there is a medical connection between work and an injury or disease
- If there is a medical connection between a work injury and a condition that developed later
- If the worker was disabled by an injury longer than WorkSafeBC decided
- If the worker’s permanent disability or injuries are greater than WorkSafeBC decided
As soon as you know a medical opinion is needed, submit the following form:
Getting assistance or advice from a health professional takes time to coordinate and complete. It may delay the decision of the appeal.
Contact WCAT if you want to cancel your request.
AFTER YOU MAKE A REQUEST
The vice chair will decide if an independent medical opinion is needed to make a final decision. If they agree to proceed with your request, they will choose a health professional that:
- Is a qualified medical practitioner, registered dentist or registered psychologist
- Has not examined, treated or consulted in treatment of the worker
- Has not acted as a consultant to the employer
- Is independent from WorkSafeBC
You may want to get a report about your condition from a medical expert.
The appeal is suspended while the health professional reviews and responds to the following information from the vice chair:
- Non-medical facts from the vice chair
- Questions from the vice chair to be answered by the health professional
- Documents from the WorkSafeBC claim file
- Other medical records provided to WCAT
- Audio recordings or photo evidence
The role of the health professional is to assist WCAT. They do not represent the worker or the employer.
Everyone participating in the appeal will get a copy of information sent to the health professional. They will also get a copy of the health professional’s report and be able to comment on it.
The health professional may need to examine the worker. If so:
- The worker will get instructions to attend in person or by video conference
- Expenses for travel, accommodation, time off work or childcare will be paid back
If the worker does not attend or cooperate with the medical exam, the vice chair will decide what happens next. They can choose to:
- Reschedule the exam
- Ask the health professional to write a report based on the information they have
- Make a final decision about the appeal without information from the health professional
- Continue with the appeal without the worker
- Dismiss the appeal
Do you need more evidence? You only need to get new evidence if you think the information on the WorkSafeBC file isn’t complete or doesn’t fully support your position in the appeal.
Be specific about how evidence supports your case. Consider…
- What evidence will help to explain what happened?
- What facts do you need to prove? What evidence will prove those facts?
You do not need to provide information that is already in the WorkSafeBC file. The vice chair already has that evidence. The WorkSafeBC file also includes anything that was provided to the Review Division.
If you don’t have new information to share, contact WCAT to let them know you won’t be sending anything else.
WCAT may also gather more evidence. For example WCAT may:
- Collect employment, income or medical records
- Ask WorkSafeBC to investigate matters, including doing ergonomic and employability assessments
- Order the production of existing documents relevant to the appeal if a person is not willing or able to produce them and there is no other way to test the evidence. Refer to the Manual of Rules of Practice and Procedure Chapter 11.7: Orders (Subpoenas) for the Production of Existing Evidence and Attendance of Witnesses
If any additional evidence is gathered, copies will be sent to everyone participating in the appeal for comment.
Get appeal expenses reimbursed
WCAT can tell WorkSafeBC to pay back expenses related to the appeal – for example:
- Getting evidence relevant to the appeal (e.g. a letter or report from a doctor)
- Document translation
- Travel to the hearing
- Taking time off work to attend the hearing