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Mediation is the fancy word for a settlement conference. These are either entered into voluntarily, meaning that both the insurance company and the claimant’s attorney agree to sit down to discuss a part of the case. Otherwise, mediations are held involuntarily after a request for a hearing is filed, as both parties have to complete mediation before the case proceeds to a hearing.

Mediation will be necessary if there is a dispute involving a worker’s compensation case and a hearing request has been filed. In North Carolina, mediation must be completed before being allowed to go a hearing. The other time it is required is if the Raleigh worker’s compensation attorney feels that it would be in their best interest to sit down with the insurance company and their settlement conference to see whether or not it makes sense to transfer control back to the person or settle the case.

Process of Mediation

Mediation entails an informal meeting at the person’s attorney’s office or an office that is neutral. Essentially, it is a sit-down meeting with the employer, their insurance company’s attorney, a neutral third party called a mediator, and the person’s attorney.

All worker’s compensation cases are not ordered to mediation. Cases that are ordered to mediation are cases in which there is a dispute and request for a hearing has been filed. Alternatively, cases are going to mediation voluntarily based on the decision between the claimant’s attorney and the attorney for the insurance company.

Coming to an agreement during mediation for a worker’s compensation case in Raleigh can vary in length. Sometimes they can take an hour, sometimes they can take five hours. The average time is about three hours.

Choosing the Mediator

Mediators are usually chosen by the two parties. That means that the claimant’s attorney and the attorney for the insurance company, or the insurance company directly, works together to choose and agree to a mediator that they believe would be best for the case. The employer and employee together agree to the selection of the mediator

Mediators could be switched if a conflict comes up and they are unable to attend the mediation. A substitution of a mediator is filed with the North Carolina Industrial Commission.

It is not very often that someone would want to switch the mediator because they are chosen by mutual agreement of the parties. Sometimes mediator schedules are such that they are too far out and the person needs to have some relief on their case sooner than later, so mediators switch in order for the mediation date to be moved to a sooner time.

Oftentimes, the employer and the claimant will split the cost of mediation evenly. In some scenarios, the payment’s cost is negotiated in any type of settlement agreement. That means that if the employer agrees to it, they may pay for the entire mediation fee.

Rules of the Mediator

Mediators must adhere to certain rules that are promulgated by the North Carolina Industrial Commission and the North Carolina rules of evidence. One of the most important rules to keep in mind is that anything said during mediation cannot be introduced or used as the evidence in any later hearing.

If mediators do not adhere to the rules, the mediation will likely be at an impasse, which means that the attorneys will agree in the mediation.

When Approaching Mediation

People should know that they should come with an open mind to any mediation process and not have some level of expectation of what may or may not happen. This is an informal process and there is no need to have anxiety as this is not a formal court hearing. It is important to listen to the advice of your attorney. You chose their attorney for a reason, so you should listen to their professional advice when navigating the mediation process.