North Carolina Workers' Compensation Mediation
Many injured workers submit valid claims for workers’ compensation benefits that are disputed by employers and their workers’ compensation insurance administrators. When disputes arise, the injured worker may have to ask the N.C. Industrial Commission to intervene and order the payment of workers’ compensation benefits. If an injured worker files a request for the Industrial Commission to hold an appeal hearing on a disputed claim, the commission will first try to get the two sides to try to settle their differences through mediation. Mediation is a form of structured negotiation. It is important to have an experienced lawyer represent you at a mediation settlement conference and provide trusted guidance.
Our lawyers at Younce, Vtipil, & Baznik, P.A., have many years of experience handling North Carolina workers’ compensation claims disputes and representing injured workers in mediation conferences. We apply our experience and knowledge of workers’ compensation law to guide clients through the mediation process and then proceed to a hearing if the mediation process does not produce a settlement acceptable to all parties. Attorneys Robert C. “Chip” Younce Jr. and David E. Vtipil are board-certified specialists in North Carolina workers’ compensation law. Board certification indicates that a lawyer has received additional training and passed a special examination administered by the North Carolina State Bar in a particular area of law. Board certification is a designation that only a small percentage of attorneys in North Carolina have. You will not owe a legal fee unless we are successful in securing benefits for you. Contact us for a free claim review and discussion of your legal options including mediation.
What is Workers’ Compensation Mediation?
When an injured worker files a request for a hearing before the North Carolina Industrial Commission regarding a disputed workers’ comp claim, the commission will generally order that the opposing sides participate in a mediated settlement conference. The goal is to resolve the dispute without a formal hearing.
Basically, mediation is a meeting between you and your employer or the workers’ comp administrator, with a trained, neutral third-party present, working to broker a settlement. The mediator, who is usually an attorney, listens to the opposing sides and explores ways to break the impasse and resolve the benefits dispute. Mediation is a form of dispute resolution. It can be helpful to have an impartial, outside perspective on a disputed issue.
Both the injured worker and the employer or workers’ comp insurance company typically have lawyers representing them and making offers on their behalf. But mediation is a less formal process than a commission hearing, which is presided over by an Industrial Commission member who acts as a judge. In a mediation conference, the two sides try to negotiate a resolution, with an independent mediator working to broker a settlement.
The goal of mediation is to expedite the settlement process and minimize the need for a hearing.
What to Expect from Workers’ Comp Mediation in NC
The injured worker and his or her attorney and the employer or insurance administrator and their attorney meet with the mediator and make a short presentation regarding the merits of their position.
The lawyer for the injured workers makes a short presentation about the worker’s injury, medical costs and the consideration the injured worker should receive. The representative of the employer makes a presentation explaining the employer’s position and the justification for it.
The mediator typically separates the parties into different rooms and then shuttles back and forth between the rooms with settlement offers and counteroffers. The mediator works with the two sides to try to reach common ground. But a mediator cannot order a settlement or impose a decision. The mediator may talk privately with each side about the strengths and weaknesses of their respective positions to move toward a settlement. A mediation session may last several hours. In complex negotiations, it may involve more than one mediation session.
Mediation may lead to a settlement offer. But mediated settlements often require both sides to compromise and accept less than their initial demand.
If the mediation produces a settlement, the lawyers will draft a settlement agreement stating the terms of the agreement including the amount to be paid to the injured worker and how the payments will be made. If the two sides cannot reach a compromise, the case then proceeds to a hearing.
The parties have a right to select a mediator certified by the Dispute Resolution Commission. If the two sides have been ordered to try mediation and cannot agree on the choice of a mediator, the Industrial Commission will appoint a mediator from the commission’s list of mediators eligible for appointment.
Workers’ Compensation Mediation
Mediation is typically required if a request has been filed for a hearing before the N.C. Industrial Commission. The Clerk to the Industrial Commission will send an order for a mediated settlement conference to all parties along with a letter acknowledging the hearing request.
However, cases involving an injured worker who is not represented by an attorney are mediated only if all parties agree to mediation.
You will have a better chance of success if you have a knowledgeable workers’ compensation attorney standing up for you at a mediation settlement conference. The attorneys at Younce, Vtipil, & Baznik, P.A., apply our hands-on experience and knowledge of North Carolina workers’ compensation law to help clients seek the full the workers’ comp benefits they are entitled to by law.
If a mediation settlement conference has been scheduled for a certain date, it may not be postponed without the approval of the mediator of the Dispute Resolution Coordinator or until the requesting party notifies all other parties of the grounds for the requested postponement.
If you request a hearing before the Industrial Commission but then all parties reach a satisfactory resolution of the workers’ comp issue before the mediation takes place, the mediation settlement conference is no longer necessary.
The workers’ comp lawyers at Younce, Vtipil, & Baznik, P.A., understand you are going through a stressful time after a workplace injury and need trusted guidance. We are here to help if you are having difficulty obtaining workers’ compensation benefits and can represent you during mediation. We are prepared to assist you with all aspects of your workers’ compensation case so that you can focus on your recovery. Contact us at (919) 351-8827 for a free consultation today.