Once a worker’s compensation claim has been filed, there may be quite a lot going on. However, one primary aspect that you need to focus on is the settlement conference that is scheduled once the claim begins. During the time period before it, your worker’s compensation attorney will work with you to strengthen your case in order for this meeting between you and the insurance adjusters. However, after this conference or even before it has even happened, you may be recommended by your lawyer or approached by the insurance company to undergo mediation. While these meetings are, in their fundamental premise, very similar, what is the difference between them and why might your case have both?
What Are Settlement Conferences?
Once a claim has been filed in the worker’s compensation system, a settlement conference will be automatically scheduled. The Office of Administrative Hearings typically sets up this conference around six months after the filing begins.
In a settlement conference, you will informally meet with insurance adjusters as well as a worker’s compensation judge. This settlement conference is a chance to try and settle any disputes with the case as well as settle the entire case before it proceeds to court proceedings.
While a judge is present, they do not have any authority to command either party to comply with the other’s terms nor do they have the power to make any other decisions regarding disputes. If these disputes cannot be reconciled in this settlement conference, the case will still proceed to trial and it will be heard in front of a different judge. In essence, the judge is only present to sign the settlement agreement if one is reached and has no other power to sway the conference.
What is Worker’s Compensation Mediation?
Mediation is similar to a settlement conference, but it is a much more formal affair. In cases where mediation is requested, often the claims have a higher monetary value or are more complicated in nature. However, any case can be opened for mediation if both parties to agree.
When it comes to a mediation meeting, clients will contact a mediator that has knowledge in matters of state worker’s compensation law. Before the mediation begins, both parties will submit case evaluations, settlement proposals, and any confidential or crucial background information to the mediator so they have a wealth of knowledge and wide scope of both sides of the claim. They will then schedule a meeting at a local neutral place or a lawyer’s office where both parties will meet. However, the insurance adjusters and the injured worker will be kept in separate conference rooms. The mediator will then move between these rooms presenting offers and delivering counter-offers on the case until a settlement is reached.
If no settlement can be reached in mediation, the worker’s compensation claim will simply proceed to trial as planned. Any offers or counter-offers that were presented during mediation will not be able to be used during the court hearing. Essentially, mediation offers no downsides for either party and is often worth trying. If nothing else, mediation negotiations will give you an idea of what the insurance company is willing to pay for your claim and any potential issues that you and your lawyer will need to prepare for.
There is no part in the worker’s compensation process in which an injured worker is required to have a lawyer to represent them. However, always remember that it is an insurance adjuster’s job to keep costs low, and without a lawyer at your side, it is unlikely they will offer you what is considered a fair settlement. This is why if you were injured in the St. Paul area, you should contact us today. Let the Law Office of Joshua Borken work in your best interests to get you the best worker’s compensation benefits quickly.