Sometimes, you may go through an evidentiary hearing, where you and your lawyer and the insurance company have a hearing in front of a Deputy Commissioner, acting as a judge in your case. Sometimes, however, you may go through Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) instead.
In Alternative Dispute Resolution, a mediator works with you and your attorney, and the insurance company to reach an agreement, instead of going through the hearing process with a Commissioner. It is voluntary: you and your lawyer decide if you want to do it. With mediation, both sides discuss topics to come to a solution that they agree with. The mediator, who is a neutral person not associated with either side, is trained to work with you to make this process happen.
If the date for the evidentiary hearing for a case is set and the parties have agreed to a mediation session that is at a later date, your attorney and the insurance company will contact the Deputy Commissioner and ask for a continuance. A continuance means that the hearing is postponed so you can have the scheduled mediation. You still have the right to have a hearing with the Deputy Commissioner if you don’t reach an agreement during the mediation.
The mediator can give information about the process, point out problems that should be discussed, and helps keep the discussion on track, but the mediator does not make a decision the way the Deputy Commissioner does in a hearing. The mediator is trained to facilitate the discussion, is employed by the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission, and is certified in this type of mediation according to the state guidelines. You and your lawyer and the insurance company make the decisions together and agree on them.
You and your attorney may decide to do mediation for just one issue, called Issue Mediation. It may take place on the phone or in person, and usually is scheduled for about 90 minutes. Common topics are medical treatment or bills, average weekly wage, mileage, specifics of benefits.
You can also do a Full and Final Mediation to completely close the claim if both parties are willing to come to an agreement. It takes place in person and is usually scheduled for three hours.
Alternative Dispute Resolution is free and may be quicker to do than the full evidentiary hearing. Talk with your attorney, as they know if mediation is the right choice in your circumstances, or if going through the evidentiary hearing is a better way to get a good resolution for your case and get you the benefits you deserve.
HammondTownsend will take you through the entire workers’ compensation claim process, whether you use alternative dispute resolution or a hearing. Call today for a free consultation: 888-580-9048.