Georgia Workers’ Compensation: Mediation Settlement
WORKERS’ COMPENSATION: SETTLEMENT MEDIATION
Mediation is a powerful tool available to assist parties in the settlement of Workers’ Compensation claims. Attorney Joseph W. Segraves has extensive exprenience in settlement of Workers’ Compensation cases through the mediation process and is available to assist you in cases throughout Georgia including Atlanta, Canton, Cartersville, Acworth, Kennesaw, Rome, Johns Cree, and Woodstock. Contact us when you need help.
Mediation: What is it?
Mediation is the process of using an impartial third party to assist the claimant and the employer/insurer to resolve issues and settle a Workers’ Compensation claim. The mediator serves to facilitate and manage the negotiations of the parties toward a mutual agreement. It is voluntary, private, confidential and consensual.
Who is the Mediator?
A mediator is often called a “neutral”. He or she is a person who is not a party to the claim and has no financial or other interest in the outcome of the case. Most mediators in Workers’ Compensation cases are trained as mediators and registered with the Georgia Office of Dispute Resolution. Most are attorneys who have extensive experience in and knowledge of Workers’ Compensation law. A mediator in a Workers’ Compensation case can be a private third-party selected by agreement of the parties. The State Board of Workers’ Compensation also maintains on staff a number of excellent mediators who are available to assist the parties in resolving their disputes.
Is Mediation confidential?
Mediation is a private proceeding. The mediator will not divulge any information that a party does not authorize him or her to disclose to the other party. The mediator does not keep any records of the mediation except for documents showing who attended and, if settled, the terms of the settlement. The mediator will destroy any of his notes or any documents he receives during the course of the mediation. The mediator cannot be called as a witness by either party in any hearing.
What should I expect at Mediation?
You should expect a fair exchange of information about each party’s point of view. You should expect the mediator to be impartial between the parties but to be aggressive in pushing both parties toward a resolution of the claim. A mediator will want each party to see the other party’s position on issues (strengths and weaknesses). As the mediator goes back and forth between the parties, he or she may seek to explain, to justify or even seem to be advocating the other party’s position. He may suggest alternative options for settlement. Always seeking to find effective means of moving the parties closer to a resolution. Your attorney should allow the mediator to do his work and to discuss issues with you freely, but should not hesitate to protect your interests if necessary. Your attorney should also be actively involved in advising you and explaining things to you during the time that the mediator is talking with the opposing party.
Who attends Mediation?
Mediation is normally attended by the mediator, the claimant, the claimant’s attorney, and the attorney for the employer/insurance carrier. The insurance company’s adjuster also often attends mediation. A representative from the employer sometimes attends mediation. Claimants frequently bring a spouse, family member or close friend with them to the mediation for support.
When to Seek Mediation?
There is no fixed rule on when to seek to mediate the settlement of a claim. Each case has its own set of facts and circumstances that must be considered. The personal and financial needs of the claimant must also be considered in determining when to mediate. The claimant’s medical condition and future treatment needs should be as fully understood as possible before mediation occurs.
How do you prepare for Mediation?
It is extremely important that the parties are well prepared for mediation. This is particularly true for the claimant. The claimant and the claimant’s attorney need to be thoroughly familiar with the facts of the case, the strengths and weaknesses of the case, and the types and amounts of relief that actually can be awarded in a Workers’ Compensation claim. All cases have weak points or you would probably not be at mediation, and it is very important to understand them in anticipation of your opponent’s position at mediation. Claimants should meet with their attorney prior to mediation to discuss all of these matters. My practice as an attorney for claimants is to have the case basically prepared for a trial with the theory of the case determined, facts organized, key legal issues researched, and medical and other exhibits identified. Then I determine what relief can be granted and I calculate a range of possible settlement amounts (minimum to accept as a settlement and maximum available as damages).
What happens at Mediation?
Mediation is an informal meeting of the parties. The course of the activities at mediation vary on a claim by claim basis with the mediator, parties and facts determining what will occur. Generally, the mediation will start with all parties together in one conference room. The mediator will give an opening statement that tells the parties about his/her role as a mediator and describes how the mediation will proceed. Then both parties are given an opportunity to briefly state the key points of their case and provide the mediator with any information that they may feel is needed for the successful settlement of the claim. The mediator will then normally separate the parties into separate conference rooms. This allows the mediator to discuss the claim privately with each party in an effort to understand the positions of the parties and to resolve differences whenever possible. The mediator will also discuss the terms of settlement and the amount of settlement. The mediator will go back and forth between the parties seeking to find the best settlement amount and terms that both parties can agree to.
What happens after Mediation?
If the claim is not settled, then the case proceeds as if mediation never happened. Each party may pursue any and all rights, issues, defenses, claims or other matters that it had prior to mediation. If the claim is settled, then the parties will prepare, sign and file the required settlement documents for approval by the State Board of Workers’ Compensation. After approval, the settlement amount should be paid by the employer/insurer within twenty (20) days.
Who pays for Mediation?
When the mediator is provide by the State Board of Workers’ Compensation, then there are no fees or charges for the parties. If a private mediator is used, then the parties will pay for the mediation. A private mediator normally charges by the hour. Mediator charge for their time at a rate of $150.00 to $300.00 per hour with each party agreeing to pay one-half of the mediator fees. Sometimes, the employer or insurance company will agree to pay all of the costs of private mediation.
An experienced attorney familiar with Workers’ Compensation claims and law who has experience in handling claims at mediation can help you protect your rights and can help you get the benefits you deserve. We have the knowledge, experience and skill to assist you in dealing with the process of obtaining the best available settlement at mediation in your Workers’ Compensation case. We represent injured workers in their claims for benefits throughout North Georgia including Atlanta, Marietta, Kennesaw, Johns Creek, Cobb County, Cherokee County, Bartow County, Floyd County, Paulding County, Fulton County and Forsyth County. Contact us today to discuss your situation and the benefits you are be entitled to receive.