It is no secret that most workers’ compensation cases settle before going to trial. However, cases with hotly contested issues or an unreasonable adjuster can be challenging and more time-consuming to resolve. If this is your situation, mediation could be a powerful tool that could help you settle your case.
What Is Mediation in a Workers’ Compensation Case?
Mediation is a process where a neutral third party helps the parties to communicate better in an effort to resolve a claim. It is private and confidential.
The goal is to focus on current and future needs and interests rather than on blame for past actions. Mediation can be agreed to by the parties or ordered by the Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation, which is promoting mediation in workers’ compensation cases.
Mediation is an opportunity for the parties to meet face-to-face to discuss their concerns. One of its benefits is that it can potentially give you more control over what happens in your case rather than leaving important decisions to an administrative judge who may not make a decision you agree with. You may not receive everything in mediation because it is the nature of the process to get the parties to make compromises to resolve your claim. But you have more control over what compromises you make—which could make them easier to live with.
Who Is the Mediator?
A mediator is a neutral third party and is often referred to as “the neutral.” He is not a party to your dispute and has no financial or other interest in its outcome. The State Board of Workers’ Compensation maintains a staff of administrative law judges and staff attorneys who have been trained to mediate these cases. Many trained mediators are registered with the Georgia Office of Dispute Resolution and have experience and knowledge of workers’ compensation laws. The parties also have the option of picking their own mediator.
If an administrative judge is the mediator in your case, he will not be the judge assigned to your case. This is to protect the neutrality of the process.
What Issues Could Be Decided at Your Mediation?
If you and your employer decide to go through mediation, you can decide what issues you want to discuss beforehand to make the process more productive and less time-consuming. If mediation is ordered by the State Board, you could expect it to be an attempt to resolve one of these issues:
- Settlement negotiations where the parties agree to the mediator’s assistance in resolving the case
- Medical issues, including a change of physician or payment of bills for a compensable medical condition
- Suitable light-duty disputes and suspension of benefits based on these issues
- Rehabilitation disputes
- Disputes in cases that are considered to involve catastrophic injuries
- Once a claim has been resolved, attorney fee liens and disputes about the value of the services provided
- Determination of the correct weekly wage benefit amount
Can You Request Mediation?
You can request mediation by filing the appropriate form with the State Board. When the parties are ready to engage in settlement negotiations, a specific form must be filed to schedule mediation. If one of the parties files a motion in the case, mediation may be ordered by the Board before a hearing is set.
How Much Does Mediation Cost?
If the mediator is provided by the State Board of Workers’ Compensation, there are no fees or costs to either party. If a private mediator is used, the parties will need to pay for his services, which are usually charged at an hourly rate of $150 to $300 per hour. His fees are split between the parties.
An experienced workers’ compensation attorney can advise you if mediation could be helpful in your case. If you were injured at your job and need to file for workers’ compensation benefits, start an online chat or call our firm at 888-795-6261 to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.