Whether or not to attempt mediation, like any legal strategy, is always a tough decision. Some injured workers find that mediation is a quick way of resolving a matter without protracted litigation that can take years. On the other hand, some walk out feeling like they left too much on the table. To make the most of your mediation, you first need to understand what it is and how it works.
Workers’ Compensation Is Adversarial
First, understand that a workers’ compensation claim is adversarial, meaning there are two sides that are opposed to each other. When you file a claim for workers’ compensation, you are essentially filing a claim for payment of insurance benefits. Think of it sort of like submitting a claim to another driver’s insurance company, requesting payment for your injuries. Because people work for their employers, however, they can make the mistaken assumption that they are “on the same team.” But you would not think this if it were an opposing party in a lawsuit. Similarly, the insurance companies are not on your side. Their job is to pay you as little as possible. Therefore, you need experienced Georgia workers’ compensation attorneys on your side.
What Is Mediation?
There are a number of ways people can resolve civil disputes. They can informally reach an agreement without resorting to legal actions at all. This is fairly common in minor disputes. People can also resolve disputes through full-scale litigation. This means filing a lawsuit in court and proceeding until a trial ultimately determines the outcome. In between these two extremes are a wide range of tools designed to resolve a lot of disputes that otherwise could take years to resolve through court. Mediation is one of these tools
In workers’ compensation mediation, a neutral party will hear both sides’ arguments regarding the injury, the treatment, the long-term prognosis, and any other relevant facts and legal theories. Some forms of mediation are binding, meaning the decision is final and cannot be rejected. However, workers’ compensation mediations are non-binding. So if you do not like the outcome, you are not bound to accept it.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Mediation
On one hand, either party can request mediation, and there are often good reasons to do so.
Sometimes people greatly overestimate the value of the case. Likewise, insurers can greatly underestimate the value of the case. In either instance, mediation is a great tool to help parties assess what might happen if the case goes to court. Sometimes realistic expectations can facilitate fair settlements. Similarly, if an injured worker is in dire need of relief, it may be impractical to wait years for a resolution. If the worker is willing to accept less than what may be awarded at a trial, then mediation offers a workable solution to save the insurance company money and get the worker paid faster.
Mediations can be helpful, but you almost always receive a settlement less than what your case is probably worth. This is because insurance companies carefully assess their potential risk exposure and decide what is acceptable. If your case is worth $100,000, but the insurance company knows it will cost $50,000 to defend through trial, then they face possibly spending $150,000. So, settling for $60,000 or 75,000 may be a calculated risk that an insurance company is willing to make by settling early. They save attorneys’ fees and court costs, and they avoid the possibility of a massive trial court award.
What to Do If You Think Mediation Might Be Right for You
The mediator is typically an administrative judge or staff attorney employed by the State Board of Workers’ Compensation. This person has a lot of experience hearing work-related injury claims. But this person is still a judge. He or she is charged with hearing the facts and decided the merits of the claim. This person, like the insurance company and employer, is not on your side. It is your job to argue your case and convince this person to rule in your favor. While the other part is not obligated to accept, mediation generally moves cases closer to settlement.
The Bader Scott Injury Lawyers serves injured workers in Georgia. If you or someone you know has been injured on the job, contact the experienced Savannah, GA workers’ compensation lawyers at Bader Scott Injury Lawyers and schedule your free consultation today.