Workers' compensation claims can sometimes be complex, and not all disputes can be resolved quickly or easily. When there's disagreement between the injured worker and the insurance company, one option that might be suggested is mediation.
The article below outlines what you can expect during a workers' comp mediation session.
Introduction to Mediation
Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution where a neutral party facilitates a conversation between the disputing parties to help them reach a voluntary agreement. The mediator doesn't make decisions but assists the parties in understanding the issues and identifying potential solutions.
Before attending the mediation session, your attorney will likely discuss the strengths and weaknesses of your case, your settlement range, and your negotiation strategy.
The Opening Session
Both parties, along with their representatives or attorneys, will be present. The mediator typically begins by explaining the process, setting ground rules, and ensuring confidentiality. Each party will then have an opportunity to present their side of the story, without interruption.
After the opening statements, the mediator may hold private meetings, or caucuses, with each side. This allows both parties to discuss concerns privately with the mediator, who will then relay any information or offers between the parties, helping to foster communication.
The bulk of the mediation session will revolve around negotiation. The mediator will work with both parties to find common ground, exploring possible solutions and suggesting alternatives.
There are three main potential outcomes of a mediation session:
Agreement. Both parties come to a mutual agreement. This agreement will be written and signed by both parties.
Partial Agreement. Some issues are resolved, but others remain. Parties may decide to continue negotiating or might proceed to a formal hearing.
No Agreement. If the parties cannot find common ground, the claim may proceed to trial or another form of dispute resolution.
Anything said during mediation is confidential and cannot be used as evidence if the dispute goes to trial, promoting open and honest communication.
Cost-Effective and Less Formal
Mediation is typically less expensive and faster than going to trial. The informal setting can make it less intimidating, and decisions are in the hands of the disputing parties, rather than a judge.
If an agreement is reached, your attorney will ensure that the appropriate documents are filed, and you'll receive the benefits outlined in the agreement. If no agreement is made, your attorney will guide you on the next steps.
Mediation can be a beneficial process for resolving workers' compensation disputes. By understanding what to expect and preparing adequately, injured workers can navigate the mediation process confidently and potentially reach a satisfactory resolution. Always consult with a qualified workers' compensation attorney to ensure that your rights and interests are adequately protected.