Considering workers’ compensation mediation in Atlanta? Mediation is a good option when both parties involved in a workers’ compensation claim cannot agree on the terms of the settlement. An unbiased mediator (usually an attorney) attends the meeting and fosters open communication between the parties. “Mediation is a forward-looking process in that it encourages the participants to focus on their current and future needs and interests, rather than focusing on fault and blame for past actions,” explains the State Board of Workers’ Compensation (SBWC).
What to Expect during Mediation
Mediation is very different from a hearing in that:
- no evidence is presented;
- no witnesses are called to testify; and
- most important, no judge will issue a ruling.
Rather, the mediation is presided over by a mediator with a great deal of experience in workers’ compensation law. The mediator can give his or her opinion to both sides as to the strengths and weaknesses of their respective cases, but the mediator cannot decide the settlement value of the case. The mediator’s job is simply to help persuade both parties to compromise and reach a compromise that’s acceptable to both the employer/insurer and the worker.
If you and your attorney decide to go the mediation route, your attorney will advocate for you and offer you advice during the meeting. Usually by the end of the mediation, both sides have made clear what they will need from the other side in order to settle the case. While not every case settles at a mediation, the time spent isn’t lost. Even your case doesn’t settle on the day of the meeting, you usually will walk away from the experience with the best offer the insurance company is willing to make at that point in the case. And in some cases, the insurance company will offer more after they have had time to reevaluate the case after the mediation.
Requesting a Mediation
If you and your employer are unable to reach terms initially and you’d like to try compromise, you can request a settlement mediation by filing Form WC-100/Request for Settlement Mediation with the State Board of Workers’ Compensation. Both parties will have to sign it. This form lets the State Board know that all parties are ready to engage in settlement negotiations.
Is A Settlement Mediation The Same As A Workers Compensation Hearing
No. Mediation is an informal process where all of the parties will be given a chance to explain their positions to the mediator who will then try to help the parties resolve their differences. After meeting with both parties in the same room, the mediator usually separates the parties and then goes back and forth to see if he or she can bring the parties to a point of compromise.
Is the Worker Obligated to Accept Mediation?
Whenever the Workers’ Compensation Board asks the worker to appear for mediation, the worker is required to agree. They are also required to show up at the right time and at the right place when the mediation is scheduled. Failure to comply with the Board can result in a denial of the worker’s claim. It will also give a negative impression about the employee if they are absent and if the employer or their representative is present since this will convey to the Board that either the worker is making a false claim or is simply not interested in pursuing it. Therefore, employees are obligated to attend any mediation sessions initiated by the Board. Whether they reach an agreement during this session is another thing altogether.
Should the Injured Worker Participate During the Mediation?
The worker should and is expected to participate during the mediation session. The entire goal of this proceeding is to provide both the worker and the employer an informal setting where they can openly discuss their issues and arrive at a conclusion. The mediator will ensure that the discussion takes place in a civil manner and that both parties can present their sides of the story. The mediator can also offer suggestions that could potentially facilitate agreement. However, it is the parties involved that will eventually have to settle their argument. The mediator cannot impose a decision as that is not how the process of mediation is designed to work.
Will Everything Remain Confidential during the Mediation Proceeding?
The entire process of mediation is confidential. Any information that is shared by the worker or their representative and the employer and their representative will remain within the walls of the session. This is guaranteed, and the mediator cannot even be subpoenaed in court to reveal anything that was discussed during the process of mediation. If the mediator has taken any notes, they will be destroyed right after the session ends. No part of the mediation process can be recorded. Everything remains strictly confidential.
Can Anybody Be the Mediator?
The mediator is appointed by the State Board of Workers’ Compensation. It can be an administrative law judge or a staff attorney. The only requirement is that these mediators are certified and have significant experience in dealing with workers’ compensation related claims and cases. If a judge is a mediator, that judge cannot hear your case if the mediation fails and if the case goes to court.
Does Mediation Take Long?
The length of the process is entirely dependent on the extent of the dispute, the number of issues that need to be settled, the complexity of these issues and the strength or weakness of the arguments in question. If it is a straightforward case, the mediation process can end in fifteen minutes, but if it is a complex case and there are significant issues on both sides, the process can take longer and may require multiple sessions.
Mediation is Not Optional When the State Board of Workers’ Compensation Orders You to Attend
If you are ordered by the Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation to attend mediation, then you are required to do so. You are not required to reach an agreement, though. If you are not satisfied with the options that you are presented with during mediation, then you can still opt to resolve the dispute in a workers’ compensation hearing. You should see mediation as your opportunity to discuss the problem, your concerns, and what you want to come of the meeting. The mediator will not force you to agree to anything, and they will not try to make any decisions for you. Rather, they will offer up possible solutions, listen to both sides, and help you come to a mutually beneficial agreement, if possible. It is a good idea to have your attorney present for this meeting, so if you don’t already have one, contact Bader Scott Injury Lawyers to find out how we can help you through the process.
Getting Top-Notch Counsel for Your Workers’ Comp Case in Atlanta
If you are having issues settling your claim, it’s a good idea to have an attorney represent you and help you through the process. Having a lawyer on your side exponentially increases the likelihood of being compensated fairly. For a free consultation with a workers’ comp attorney in Atlanta, contact Bader Scott Injury Lawyers, today at 678-562-5595.