All employers in Rome, GA are required by law to offer workers’ compensation coverage to their employees. This rule applies to employers who employ three or more employees. Workers’ compensation benefits are intended for employees who sustain injuries that are work-related and incur financial losses as a result of that injury. While the law clearly states that workers are to be compensated for work-related injuries, there are often situations when the employer and/or their insurance company is contesting the worker’s claim. When such a dispute occurs, the State Board of Workers’ Compensation can recommend mediation.
What is Mediation?
Mediation is a process of settling a dispute where a neutral third party called the mediator is brought in to help the parties contesting each other to communicate with each other and reach an agreement. Its primary objective is to encourage all participants to avoid putting blame and assigning fault but instead reach an amicable agreement that is acceptable to all parties involved.
Obviously, when the employer is disputing the worker’s claim, their goal is to minimize their financial loss. However, it is the right of the employee to be compensated for any damages they have incurred, either in the form of medical expenses or lost wages. Each side has an agenda so to say, and the process is geared towards achieving a compromise where both parties are satisfied.
Is the Worker Obligated to Accept Mediation?
Whenever the Workers’ Compensation Board asks the worker to appear for mediation, the worker is required to agree. They are also required to show up at the right time and at the right place when the mediation is scheduled. Failure to comply with the Board can result in a denial of the worker’s claim. It will also give a negative impression about the employee if they are absent and if the employer or their representative is present since this will convey to the Board that either the worker is making a false claim or is simply not interested in pursuing it. Therefore, employees are obligated to attend any mediation sessions initiated by the Board. Whether they reach an agreement during this session is another thing altogether.
Should the Injured Worker Participate During the Mediation?
The worker should and is expected to participate during the mediation session. The entire goal of this proceeding is to provide both the worker and the employer an informal setting where they can openly discuss their issues and arrive at a conclusion. The mediator will ensure that the discussion takes place in a civil manner and that both parties can present their sides of the story. The mediator can also offer suggestions that could potentially facilitate agreement. However, it is the parties involved that will eventually have to settle their argument. The mediator cannot impose a decision as that is not how the process of mediation is designed to work.
Will Everything Remain Confidential during the Mediation Proceeding?
The entire process of mediation is confidential. Any information that is shared by the worker or their representative and the employer and their representative will remain within the walls of the session. This is guaranteed, and the mediator cannot even be subpoenaed in court to reveal anything that was discussed during the process of mediation. If the mediator has taken any notes, they will be destroyed right after the session ends. No part of the mediation process can be recorded. Everything remains strictly confidential.
Can Anybody Be the Mediator?
The mediator is appointed by the State Board of Workers’ Compensation. It can be an administrative law judge or a staff attorney. The only requirement is that these mediators are certified and have significant experience in dealing with workers’ compensation related claims and cases. If a judge is a mediator, that judge cannot hear your case if the mediation fails and if the case goes to court.
Does Mediation Take Long?
The length of the process is entirely dependent on the extent of the dispute, the number of issues that need to be settled, the complexity of these issues and the strength or weakness of the arguments in question. If it is a straightforward case, the mediation process can end in fifteen minutes, but if it is a complex case and there are significant issues on both sides, the process can take longer and may require multiple sessions.
What If I Want Mediation?
A worker can request mediation by filing the necessary request with the State Board of Workers’ Compensation. For the mediation process to be successful, all parties involved should be willing to engage in such negotiations. If you file a request for mediation, a mediation session may be scheduled within 30 days of your request. Sometimes, emergency mediation can also be scheduled depending on the case or situation.
Consult with a Workers’ Compensation Legal Representative in Georgia
If you are a worker in Rome, GA who was injured in the workplace or during a work-related activity, you have the right to request mediation in case there is a dispute. However, you may want to consider seeking legal counsel so that there is someone with the necessary knowledge and skill to present your argument properly. People can often be intimidated by the presence of a mediator, and this can be further complicated if your employer aggressively denies your claim. Call the experienced workers’ comp lawyers at Bader Law Firm to discuss why your company denies the validity of your claim and what measures you can take to tackle this dispute.
Our legal team is available at all times to discuss the specifics of your case, why your employer is contesting your claim and what steps you can take to ensure you get the compensation you deserve. Call us today at 678-562-5595. Our team has dealt with numerous cases related to workers compensation claims. We are aware of the law in Rome, Georgia, and we can aggressively fight for your rights.
Seth Bader is an Auto accident, Workers Compensation and Personal Injury Attorney who practices in Atlanta, Rome, Savannah, Norcross, Carrollton, Georgia. He graduated from Florida State University College of Law, and has been practicing law for 14 years. Seth Bader believes in fighting for the injured. Learn more about his experience by clicking here.