Every lawsuit or claim starts with a dispute. Workers’ comp mediation gives parties a way to informally settle that dispute without having to go to court. In worker’s compensation, a mediator helps an injured worker get medical benefits and weekly benefits for time away from work. They can also help parties agree on a dollar figure that will compensate the injured worker for their long-term or permanent impairment. That means that mediation can help the parties resolve all aspects of their workers’ compensation case without having to go before a judge.
What Role Does Mediation Have in a Workers Compensation Case?
Workers’ Comp Mediation provides a way for injured workers, employers, and insurance companies to finalize the case so that everyone can move on from the injury. This alternative form of dispute resolution often results in a much faster result for a workers’ compensation claim that completely removes the risk of presenting your case to a judge. It also allows workers to avoid the emotional toll of having to relive the injury in court.
Who Attends a Workers’ Compensation Mediation?
Mediation is essentially a meeting of all of the relevant parties in your case. The mediator will often split you and your attorney into a separate room from the employer and the insurance company. Then, the mediator will go back and forth between you and the insurance company to convey offers, legal arguments, factual information, and his or her opinion about the case.
For a successful mediation, the following parties will generally attend.
- The injured worker (you)
- Your workers’ compensation attorney
- The attorney for the employer’s workers’ compensation insurer
- The insurance adjuster for your employer
- You spouse, family member, or close friend for moral support
Your employer may also send a representative. In many cases, however, they will let their insurance company take care of the mediation because the insurance adjuster is usually the one writing the check for any settlement you reach.
You will note that there is no workers’ compensation judge in attendance at the mediation. This informal process allows you, your attorney, and the insurance company to address your claim in a way that works best for what you need.
Do I Need to Prepare Anything?
Your workers’ compensation attorney will talk to you about what you should do to prepare for the mediation ahead of time. In many cases, you will not need to prepare much because you live and breathe your workers’ compensation case every day.
If you want to do some additional preparation, some of the most common things that you should review include things like:
- The facts of your case, including your injury and medical treatment
- Your medical bills and treatment
- Any correspondence that the insurance company has provided to you
- Any medical opinions that you have received
Your attorney will discuss the strengths and weaknesses of your case ahead of the mediation. However, those issues will be a big point of discussion with the mediator. If you have questions about those issues, be sure to talk to your lawyer ahead of time.
You may not want to have certain conversations with your lawyer in front of the mediator. Talk to your attorney about what you should and should not say to the mediator before the mediation starts.
Knowing the ins and outs of your case and discussing these aspects with your lawyer will help your lawyer assist you in the best way possible. One of the first steps to be sure that you get a fair settlement at mediation is to help your workers’ compensation lawyer understand all of the facts of the case—because no one knows them better than you.
What Happens After Mediation?
Generally speaking, you will either settle your case with the insurance carrier at mediation, or you won’t.
If you cannot come to an agreement, then your case may continue to be heard in front of a workers’ compensation judge. Keep in mind that you can still settle later in most cases; just because mediation did not work doesn’t mean you missed your only opportunity.
If you have reached a settlement agreement, then the only thing left to do is finalize the settlement paperwork and complete the terms of the settlement.
Keep in mind that the insurance company is likely not going to simply write you a workers’ comp check on the date of the mediation. You will often get your settlement funds a few weeks to a few months after the mediation.
Your Settlement Options
You have many options to structure a settlement in a way that works for you at mediation. Workers’ comp settlements in Pennsylvania are designed to be somewhat flexible to address the needs of injured workers.
A workers’ comp settlement is often referred to as a “Compromise and Release” or “C&R” in Pennsylvania. It can address most, if not all, of your potential damages in a workers’ compensation case, such as:
- Lost wages
- Medical expenses
- Payments directly to the hospital or other healthcare facility
- Future loss wages
The payments can be made in one lump sum or installments over time.
You can also develop a partial settlement as part of the mediation process. This type of settlement allows you to get funds for lost wages right away while still having the insurance company pay for your medical care. Medical expenses are often difficult to predict, so a partial settlement addresses that type of uncertainty.
Every case is different, so what works well for someone else may not be a feasible option for you. Your attorney will help you weigh the pros and cons of each workers’ comp settlement offer as you review them during the mediation.
Prepare for a Workers’ Comp Mediation with an Experienced Attorney
Although you have all the facts you need to get ready for your mediation, your attorney is an excellent resource through this process. He or she will be able to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of your case with you by applying the law to the facts.
Your attorney can help you decide if a settlement offer is a good compromise based on all of the available information at the mediation, including your likelihood of success at trial.
Our law firm prides itself on offering realistic and useful legal advice, and we continue to do that throughout the mediation process as well. Contact the workers’ compensation attorneys at Krasno, Krasno, and Onwudinjo for more information or to schedule a free consultation.