Civil litigation has a reputation for being complicated and dragging on for months or even longer. Workers’ compensation is no exception, and when the sides disagree about central issues, the case can become complicated and lengthy. As a way to cut down on the time and expense involved in litigation, many people are turning to mediation. During mediation, the two sides will sit down with a neutral third party who will try to facilitate a settlement. Mediation allows the two sides to come to an agreement that fits their needs and preferences. If your business is facing a workers’ compensation suit, you should know what to expect from workers’ compensation mediation.
During a workers’ compensation mediation, you and the employee will both appear and discuss the case with the mediator. The mediator is not a judge and cannot force either side to settle. Instead, the mediator’s job is simply to help the two sides communicate and try to reach common ground on some or all of the issues. You and the other side will both be able to present discussion and argument to the mediator about the merits of your respective positions. Neither of you will be under oath, and the rules of evidence that are applicable in a courtroom are not applicable during mediation. Typically before the parties arrive, the employee and the employer (or the employer’s insurance company) will have sent a detailed position statement to the mediator outlining the details of the case and the source of contention. It is usually helpful for both sides to bring all relevant documents, especially if the parties have already completed discovery.
During mediation, the sides can discuss any part of the case that is still in disagreement. In general, the mediator will put the two sides in two different rooms and go back and forth between the two, trying to help them find common ground. It can take hours for an initial settlement offer to be made, and the offer is usually followed up by a counteroffer. If the parties are able to reach a settlement on at least part of the case, the agreement will be reduced to writing and the parties will sign. The agreement will later be presented to the court for the judge’s signature. IF the parties are unable to reach an agreement on all of the issues, they can still proceed to a final hearing on only those issues that remain.
We have experience assisting our clients in workers’ compensation mediation. Call us today and we can talk about your case.