If you’ve been injured at work in Pennsylvania and are in litigation, you may have heard of the term ‘mediation’ in your case. What is a Pennsylvania workers’ compensation mediation? I can answer this through some frequently asked questions.
What is a PA workers’ compensation mediation and is it required?
Mediation is an informal meeting between the parties in a workers compensation case. The meeting takes place at a PA workers’ compensation hearing location. It is an informal conference. The mediation is meant to be a discussion between the parties to attempt to resolve or settle your workers’ compensation claim.
At one time, mediation was voluntary in all workers’ compensation cases. In fact, the parties can still request a voluntary mediation at any time, even for cases that are not in litigation. However in 2006, the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act was amended to include mandatory mediation provisions.
Who attends a Pennsylvania workers’ compensation mediation?
As stated above, a mediation in a workers’ compensation case is a meeting between the parties and an independent mediator, who is almost always another PA workers’ compensation judge, not assigned to your case. Typically, in attendance at the mediation are you, your attorney, an attorney for the employer/insurance carrier, and the mediator. At times, the insurance adjuster or a representative from the employer may attend as well. Likewise, you are welcome to invite a spouse or family member if need be.
What typically occurs at a Pennsylvania workers’ compensation mediation?
Depending on the style of your individual mediator, your mediation may start one of two ways. First, some workers’ compensation judges like to begin mediation with all the parties in one conference room together to explain the mediation process. The parties then usually separate into different rooms. Other workers’ compensation judges skip the beginning process and just begin mediation with the parties in separate rooms from the start of mediation through the end of mediation.
The mediator will discuss with you the role of the mediator and discuss some facts about your case. The mediator will go between the two rooms with demands from the injured worker and offers for the employer/insurance carrier in an attempt to reach a settlement. During this process, the mediator continues to discuss the case to understand positions and resolve disputes.
You should expect an exchange of information about each of your points of view regarding disputed issues. Do not be surprised if the mediator discusses the weaknesses in your case with you. The mediator is doing that to both parties, so do not feel that the mediator is singling you out. These are attempts to get each party in the dispute to move and compromise.
How long does my Pennsylvania workers’ compensation mediation take?
The length of a Pennsylvania workers’ compensation mediation will vary on many factors. Some factors are the number of disputed issues in the case, the complexity of the case, complexity of demand issues, desire of both parties to want to settle the case, availability of decision makers on the side of the defendant, outstanding medical bills and liens, and other factors. Mediation may take as little as 15 minutes or could take several hours.
Do I have to settle and is this the only chance to settle my case?
No. Neither party is bound to settle. Neither party is bound by terms discussed at mediation. The mediating judge can’t discuss your case with the judge assigned to your case. It is completely confidential. Confidentiality is strict and meant to encourage honest and frank dialogue. If I had to calculate over the past decade, I would say that a little over 50% of cases settle at mediation, and the rest fail to settle due to various reasons.
The mediating judge is there for settlement discussion. The judge will not make any decisions on your case and his/her opinions are not binding on either party. It is important to note that just like a mediator can’t require you to settle your case, the mediator also can’t force the employer/insurance carrier to settle. To settle your case, both sides must agree.
Additionally, the failure to settle your case at mediation does not mean your case will never settle. Your attorney may have ongoing discussions with your employer/insurance carrier. Additionally, just because one mediation failed does not mean that the parties cannot request another mediation. It happens often. Frequently, at the end of a workers’ compensation case, but before the judge issues a decision, there are additional attempts to settle cases.
What should I know about my Pennsylvania workers’ compensation mediation?
An injured worker should understand that mediation attempts to find compromises. Compromise means that each party may walk away not completely happy. Each party may not be fully pleased with the end result. There are usually give and takes during a mediation. To come to mediation with a demand and not want to move off the demand makes mediation useless and a waste of time. A successful mediation will be the result of both parties compromising disputed issues.
What happens after my Pennsylvania workers’ compensation mediation?
One of two things will occur after your mediation.
First, if your mediation was a success and you were able to resolve your case, the mediating judge will alert the judge assigned to your case that the case has been resolved. The judge assigned to your case will then issue a hearing notice for a settlement hearing.
In the meantime, your attorney and the attorney for your employer are working together to draft a compromise and release agreement around the terms agreed to at mediation. Your attorney should review the agreement, review it with you, and then have you execute the documents before the hearing. When you settle a Pennsylvania workers’ compensation case, the PA Workers’ Compensation Act requires a hearing be held regarding the settlement.
If your mediation failed to reach an agreement, your workers’ compensation case will continue in the litigation process.
Mooney Law has recovered tens of millions of dollars on behalf of Pennsylvania injured workers. We are trusted, experienced, and proven in the courtroom. Workers’ compensation consultations are ALWAYS FREE. With 14 office spread through Central Pennsylvania, we can meet with to discuss how we can help fight for and protect your workers compensation benefits. Call Mooney Law today at 717-200-HELP or 833-MOONEYLAW. You can also email us firstname.lastname@example.org. Mooney Law handles Pennsylvania AND Maryland workers compensation cases.