Settlement Mediations in Workers' Compensation Cases
Mediations have become a very important and successful means of settling cases where individuals have suffered work-related injuries. The primary reason for the growing popularity of mediations is that the mediation process is extremely well suited to the workers' compensation system. Unlike other areas of law, the parties in a workers' compensation case cannot go to court to request that an Administrative Law Judge order one side or the other to settle. Settlement is a voluntary process and both sides must be willing to settle a workers' compensation case before a settlement can be reached. Mediations provide the one opportunity where an injured worker will have the undivided attention of the adjuster handling his/her file. The adjuster will not be distracted by other cases or disturbed with phone calls or emails. An injured worker should never attend a settlement mediation without a lawyer to be his/her advocate!
The mediator is a neutral party whose role is to try to bring the two sides together to reach an agreement. Typically, mediations take several hours before all of the issues can be fully addressed. Unlike a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge, one side does not win and one side does not lose. The mediator does not have the power to order either party to settle. However, mediations offer all of the parties an opportunity to meet face to face and express their viewpoints. This almost always leads to very favorable results.
Mediations will generally be held at the State Board of Workers' Compensation. The Board does not charge either party for the mediation process. There are a number of attorneys who work at the Board and are assigned to mediate cases every day. The parties can also agree upon a private mediation. A private mediation will take place at the offices of one of the attorneys who is involved in the workers' compensation case. The private mediator is an experienced attorney or former Administrative Law Judge who has handled many workers' compensation cases and mediates either on a full-time basis or on a part-time basis in addition to handling a regular case load. Private mediators charge for their time and the parties agree in advance who will be responsible for payment of the mediation costs.
In most cases, the ideal time for a settlement mediation is when the injured worker has reached maximum medical improvement and is no longer in need of ongoing medical treatment. Ms. Sadow has represented workers with all types of injuries (catastrophic and non-catastrophic). She has resolved cases for clients with many types of injuries, such as neck, low back, shoulder, elbow, carpal tunnel, ankle and knee injuries. She has also represented clients with spinal cord injuries, closed head injuries, reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD) and avascular necrosis (AVN) at settlement mediations. No matter what the injury, Ms. Sadow carefully prepares for each mediation and reviews the file "inside and out" before attending the mediation. Prior to the mediation, Ms. Sadow will evaluate her client's case and will prepare a settlement demand that will be sent to the employer/insurer. The employer/insurer will then prepare a settlement evaluation and obtain settlement authority in time for the mediation.
The goal of the mediation is to reach a final resolution of the case where the injured worker will receive the highest financial settlement possible. There are many factors that Ms. Sadow will consider in arriving at the appropriate settlement value of her cases. Each case is unique. Some important considerations are her client's age, physical limitations, ability to return to work, the availability of work within her client's work restrictions, and the need for future medical treatment. At the mediation, each side will have an opportunity to present their respective positions on the primary issues in the case. The mediator will help keep the parties focused and will give his or her legal perspective on the issues at hand.
Ms. Sadow works as an advocate for every one of her clients. She enjoys the mediation process and excels in obtaining outstanding results. For more information, please contact her at 770.984.8900 or send her an email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
10 Tips for a Successful Mediation
- Listen carefully to the information the mediator is presenting to you. What we discuss with the mediator when he or she is alone in a room with us is confidential and will not be revealed to the other side without our permission. I carefully select my mediators based upon their expertise in workers' compensation cases and their track record. Although the mediator is a neutral, I view my mediator's job as helping me negotiate the highest possible offer for you.
- Be patient. It takes time for the process to work. Almost all mediations last several hours before a final resolution is reached. Hang in there!
- Don't worry about the first offer. It is usually low and no one expects you to take it! Always wait for the last offer to find out how much money the defense has allocated to your case. If you leave the mediation before then, you will be doing yourself a disservice.
- Be respectful to the mediator and opposing counsel. This is your opportunity for opposing counsel to see you as a person and not just as a name on another file.
- I have handled many, many mediations and I am also a certified mediator. Follow my recommendations for the timing of each move in the negotiations.
- Please ask questions. The better you understand the law applicable to your case, the better equipped you will be to make the right decision for you and your family when the final offer is on the table.
- Keep in mind that there is no recovery for pain and suffering in workers' compensation cases.
- You have the undivided attention of opposing counsel and the employer/insurer at your mediation. They have set this time aside to focus on your case, and your case alone. Consequently, this is typically the best day we will ever have to settle your case for the top dollar.
- I have methodically evaluated your file prior to the mediation. At the mediation, I will work as your advocate. Please listen to my advice. I will effectively and persuasively present the facts and the law to the mediator so that you will receive the highest offer for your case.
- If the employer/insurer have come to a mediation, they are usually sincerely interested in trying to resolve your claim. If your case does not settle at the mediation, an Administrative Law Judge does not have the legal authority to order either side to settle.