You have been asked to go to mediation. What does that mean?
Mediation is a voluntary meeting in which the parties come together with a mediator to try to work out the case amicably without going to a hearing and is much less formal than a hearing and testimony is not needed. It is voluntary, so no one is required to participate in mediation (although you may be required to participate in an orientation session where mediation is explained to you). If you choose to mediate, it can end well for everyone. The Virginia Workers Compensation Commission offers two types of mediation. To determine which one is best for you, you need to decide whether you just want to resolve the issues that are pending or if you want to resolve the entire claim.
In general, if you just want to resolve the issues that are currently pending but leave your case open so you are entitled to more benefits, then you need to ask for issue mediation. This type of mediation typically takes place over the phone. The Commission will not require that you have an attorney to participate but it is always a good idea to consult one who knows and understands the workers compensation laws in Virginia to advocate in your best interest. In my opinion, issue mediation works best when the compensability of at least part of what you are asking for has already been agreed to by the insurance company. This is because compensability either is or it isn’t and there is not much room for compromise. However, if they agree that at least some of the claim is compensable, issue mediation can be useful.
If you want the entire claim to go away, then you want to choose a full and final mediation. You typically settle everything, not just the issues in dispute. This normally means you will take a sum of money in exchange for any right you have to ask the employer to pay for anything. I say usually because there are certain exceptions, but for the most part, when the settlement Order is entered, then you and the workers’ compensation carrier part ways once the money is paid. It is voluntary, so you have to agree to the amount of money that is paid, but it will end your right to ask the workers’ compensation carrier to pay for anything else. It is such an important decision that the Virginia Workers Compensation Commission will require that you have an attorney before you can participate in a full and final mediation. The attorney will then be sure that you have taken all of the variables into account before you give up your rights under the Virginia Workers Compensation Act.
Mediation is a good way to try to resolve either the entire case or at least the issues in your case in a more relaxed, amicable manner than in litigation.
Lorraine D’Angelo, Esquire