When an employee has been injured on the job and makes a workers’ compensation claim, it is often in the employee’s best interest to attend at least one in-person mediation conference to try to settle the case before it goes to the hearing stage. Mediation is known to be an extremely effective step in settling workers’ compensation cases. Before a mediation can occur, both parties must freely agree to mediate. The mediation process is entirely voluntary.
The injured employee, their workers’ compensation attorney and the employer’s insurance company representative and their attorney all usually attend a mediation.
The stated reason behind mediation is for both parties to try to settle the workers’ compensation case through the assistance of a mediator. The mediator is a person with significant experience in workers’ compensation law, and is often an attorney with years of experience or could also be a workers’ comp judge or other official with the state workers’ compensation board. Most importantly, the mediator is an unbiased, neutral party, working for neither side, but working with both sides to try to encourage them to compromise on a mutually acceptable settlement.
The mediation typically takes place at the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission, which involves no cost to either party. Private mediation is also an option, and usually occurs in a private attorney’s office, but there is a cost. If the mediation will be private, the parties generally decide prior to the mediation who pays the mediator’s fee. Often, the mediator is paid by the hour. Some mediations take about an hour; others can go several hours or longer, depending on how willing the two parties are to compromise.
The mediator brings together all parties – the injured employee, his workers’ compensation lawyer, the employer’s insurance company representative(s) and their attorney – and reviews the basics of the case. The employee’s attorney will summarize the case in a brief presentation detailing the extent of injuries suffered, medical treatment incurred, whether there is a permanent impairment and its rating, and whether the injured worker will likely be able to work again given his current health status. Sometimes the injured worker makes a statement.
After the opening presentation, the employer’s insurance agent or attorney states his view of the case and the employee’s injuries and current health.
At this time, the mediator divides both parties into separate rooms and alternates going into each room to discuss the case from a neutral standpoint, exploring the merits and weaknesses of each side.
The negotiation starting point is called the starting demand, which the employee’s workers’ compensation attorney presents to the employer’s insurance company. Typically, it’s an amount more than they expect the insurance company to pay. After the mediator discusses this amount with the insurance company, the employer and insurance company make their initial offer, and the mediator conveys it to the injured worker and his attorney. The first offer from the insurance company is usually less than the injured employee is willing to accept.
The mediator goes back and forth, spending time with both parties and offering neutral insights. All conversation between a mediator and each party is completely confidential. Through this back-and-forth, the settlement amount is adjusted toward a mutually acceptable middle point.
If both parties agree on an acceptable settlement, the terms are later formalized in writing in a document called a Petition and Order. After both parties sign the document, it is sent to the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission for approval. However, if both parties can’t agree on a settlement amount, mediation fails, and the parties move forward to the hearing stage.
Retaining an experienced workers’ compensation attorney like those at Commonwealth Law Group is an important step you can take toward a successful outcome for your workers’ comp claim. Our attorneys have years of experience in preparing thorough, persuasive settlement demands that detail the case in an effective manner.
As skilled and experienced negotiators, we know the ropes. We have achieved excellent results for our clients (see our results page) and will help you get a fair settlement. Call now to learn more.