Any person who sustains a workplace injury or illness in California should be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. However, there are times when disputes arise between the injured worker and their employer or the workers’ compensation insurance carrier.
When this happens, it may be necessary for the parties involved to go through mediation to resolve the issues. In some cases, mediation may be ordered by a judge, but in other cases, it may be requested by the parties involved. Here, we want to discuss what happens at a workers’ conversation mediation in California.
Who Attends a Workers’ Comp Mediation?
Mediation is an informal process when a neutral third party assists those involved towards reaching a successful resolution to the claim at hand. These mediation conferences will not take place in a courtroom but will be held at a location convenient to all parties involved. In general, the following people will attend a workers’ compensation mediation hearing in California:
- The mediator
- Your attorney
- The attorney for the workers’ compensation insurer
- The insurance adjuster for the employer
- Your spouse, a family member, or a close friend if you want them there for support
What Happens at These Mediation Hearings?
The mediation will usually start out with every party involved sitting together in a large conference room. All mediations are private and confidential, and anything that one party says to the other or during the mediation cannot be used against any party at any trial or future workers’ compensation hearing.
The mediation will typically begin with the mediator giving opening statements about their role, and they will discuss the overall mediation process. Then, attorneys for both sides will have a chance to give a brief statement regarding the main points of contention in the case.
The mediator will then likely separate both parties into different rooms and go between both rooms in an attempt to resolve the case. The mediator will discuss all of the issues involved in the case privately with both parties in order to understand their positions and resolve any disputes. The mediator will try to get you and the insurance company to agree to the terms of a settlement.
The mediator will be able to analyze both sides of the case, and they may strongly suggest that one party or the other settle because they will be aware of the weaknesses and strengths of both sides.
How Should You Prepare for the Mediation?
Any person going into a workers’ compensation mediation in California should be well prepared. Any injury victim working with a skilled workers’ comp attorney will have a thorough understanding of what to expect in these situations. An injury victim and their attorney will discuss all of the following in preparation for the mediation:
- The facts of the case
- The strength of the case
- The weaknesses of the case
- All of the disputes in the case
- The total amount of workers’ compensation benefits the victim could potentially be awarded
If the Mediation Does not Yield Result
If the mediation is not successful, it may be necessary for the injury victim to request a hearing with a California Worker’s Comp Appeals Board (WCAB). At this point, the injured worker and their attorney can argue why they believe the decision not to award workers’ competition benefits was incorrect. In the event the injured worker disagrees with the WCAB’s decision, they will have a limited amount of time to file a Petition for Reconsideration to a higher WCAB located in their geographic region in California.
If the decision of the higher WCAB is still unsatisfactory, the injured worker can appeal the case to the state appellate court. The appellate court does not have the ability to award benefits, but they can send the case back to the WCAB for further consideration. In very rare circumstances, the appeals court can allow the case to be appealed to the California Supreme Court.