In 2013, South Carolina adopted new mediation regulations for South Carolina workers’ compensation cases. Before 2013, mediations would occur in cases only if both the Claimant (Injured Worker) and the Defendants (Employer/ Insurance Carrier) agree to mediate the claim. With these regulations, it is important for the injured worker to have some idea of what kinds of cases are required to be mediated, what the mediation process is and what it is not, and who the people are involved in the mediation.
Do All Workers Comp Cases Go Through Mediation?
First, only some South Carolina Workers’ Compensation cases are required to mediation. The most common type of case that must be mediated is when I am arguing that my client is permanently and totally disabled as a result of his or her injury. Other cases including occupational disease cases, contested death claims, and cases involving the reduction of a third-party lien must also be mediated. Additionally, it is possible that my client’s claim is mediated because I feel, and my opposing counsel agrees, that a voluntary mediation would be beneficial. This typically involves complex types of cases.
If we do have a scheduled mediation, I will generally meet with my client well in advance of the mediation and discuss the goals, strategy, and process. Mediations can be stressful and arming my client with knowledge of the process and a clear game plan well in advance of the mediation is critical in combating this anxiety.
Mediations Are Generally Straightforward
At the beginning, all of the parties including the defense lawyer, myself, my client, and the mediator will meet. At times the adjuster for the insurance company will be present along with a representative for the employer. I have found that mediations are more successful when both an insurance carrier adjuster and an employer representative are physically present. The mediator is an individual, generally an attorney, that has been certified by the court to mediate the claim. He or she has likely been selected by agreement between me and the defense lawyer. It is critical for my clients to understand that the mediator is neutral which simply means that he or she does not represent or advocate on behalf of either side. The mediator’s goal is simply to assist the parties in reaching an agreement. Mediations can take entire days or even multiple days but I have found that a mediator will always continue to work as long as progress, even if very slow, is being made.
At this initial meeting, the mediator will explain the rules of mediation to the parties; most notably that the mediation is confidential and that in the event the case is not settled, nothing discussed at the mediation can be brought up in court at a later date. Following this, I generally make an opening statement to the mediator and outline my client’s case and our relative positions. The defense lawyer will usually make his or her opening statement afterward. Following this, the parties are separated into different rooms. The mediator will go back and forth to each room taking my client’s demands and the defendant’s offers of settlement to the parties. Hopefully, the parties are able to come to an agreement and resolve the case and the mediation is concluded with a signed agreement. Of course, not all cases can be resolved at mediation and either continued litigation or a hearing is required.
Personally, I am a strong advocate for the mediation process. I believe that resolution in some cases is best achieved when all the parties meet, make their positions known to each other, and work together to come to a fair resolution. Many of cases which my client felt had no chance of fair settlement were settled through the mediation process. It is important for my clients to understand that patience is key to the mediation process. Workers’ Compensation cases can be emotionally difficult and frustrating, but by working hard for my clients in advance of the mediation, having a clear plan in advance of the mediation, and employing patience through the mediation, resolutions can often be found.
If you have been injured on the job and have questions about what your case or simply need to find out if you have a case, call Grimes Teich Anderson at 864-421-0770 or contact us over the internet at www.gtalaw.net. Initial injury consultations are free; it won’t cost you anything to speak with us. We have three convenient office locations in the Upstate of South Carolina: Greenville, Spartanburg, and Gaffney. At Grimes Teich Anderson we are committed to protecting the rights of hard working people.