The Dispute Management Unit is responsible for providing information and attempting to resolve disputes between the injured worker and the employer/insurer (parties to the case) prior to a case proceeding to formal litigation. The Dispute Management Program is an alternative dispute resolution process to mediate disputes that arise soon after a workplace injury occurs. The Division has one mediator who assists parties in resolving medical treatment and lost wage disputes. This is a voluntary process and both parties must agree to mediate. When one of the parties does not agree to mediate, the party originally requesting mediation services is advised that he or she may take further steps if the problem persists, including requesting a docket setting with an Administrative Law Judge. The unit does not provide voluntary mediation services if a formal Claim for Compensation has been filed with the Division as the filing of a Claim initiates a contested case proceeding where an Administrative Law Judge has the authority to determine the issues in dispute.
- What is the Mediation Process?
- What is a Mediator?
- Who Participates in Dispute Management Unit’s Mediations?
- Who May Request Help from the Dispute Management Unit?
- What Happens When Mediation Results in an Agreement?
THE DISPUTE MANAGEMENT UNIT’S MEDIATION PROCESS HAS PROVEN TO BE:
- A successful method to resolve differences.
- Cost effective, resulting in savings of expenses.
- A risk-free environment for airing concerns and addressing expectations of the parties.
- A method for improving employee and employer relations through focused negotiations.
- A process in which the parties to the dispute are the active decision-makers.
- An opportunity to confidentially explore risks and dispute resolution options.
What is the Mediation Process?
Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution. Mediation is a process in which a neutral person facilitates communication between the parties. The mediator does not decide issues or impose a solution upon the parties. Rather, the mediator helps the parties understand and work toward an agreed upon resolution of their dispute. This is an informal process that can help disputing parties arrive at mutually satisfactory agreement without the necessity of litigation. Mediation is voluntary and is conducted only when all disputing parties desire to participate. Mediation is confidential and parties may not testify or compel testimony about what was actually said in, or in connection with, the matter being mediated.
Mediations through the Dispute Management Unit cannot be conducted if the case has already been docketed for a Conference, or if a Claim for Compensation has been filed, or if the disputed issue is permanent disability or disfigurement. Requests for help in these cases will be referred directly to the appropriate local adjudication office to be handled by an administrative law judge.
What is a Mediator?
Mediators are trained neutral professionals who may be called upon to assist the parties in resolving disputes. The mediator may provide information about the process, assist the parties to identify issues, reduce obstacles to communication, and help explore options. The primary role of the mediator is to facilitate a voluntary resolution of a dispute. The mediator does not provide legal advice. Each party to the mediation has the opportunity to consult with or be represented by legal counsel at any time. Consultation with an lawyer is encouraged but not required at this stage. As employees of the Division of Workers’ Compensation, the mediators receive no compensation from the parties. The mediators have no personal or professional relationship with any of the parties. Again, Employees have the right to hire lawyers to represent them. Generally, lawyers represent most employers and insurers.
Who Participates in Dispute Management Unit’s Mediations?
Every decision maker, including representatives of the parties necessary for the resolution of the dispute, may participate in the mediation. The parties may use affidavits, written statements, and exhibits in the mediation, though no formal or legal testimony is given at these sessions.
Who May Request Help from the Dispute Management Unit?
Anyone may call and request general information. If more than that is desired, upon request, a mediator will make a telephone inquiry to determine if the other party to the case is willing to participate in the voluntary alternative dispute management process offered by the Division’s Dispute Management Unit. Many issues are resolved in the course of these initial telephone inquiries. All parties must agree to mediation before the process can occur. This service may save time and money, but it is not a prerequisite to requesting a conference with a judge or filing a formal claim for compensation.
What Happens When Mediation Results in an Agreement?
Any agreement regarding medical or temporary benefits is reduced to writing and signed by the parties. The agreement is a record of the understanding of the parties, but it is not binding as a settlement of the benefits or rights of the employee or employer. The agreement becomes a part of the Division’s file. If the discussion of the parties focuses on a compromise settlement that would conclude the case, the mediator will coordinate the discussions with the appropriate administrative law judge who must review all proposed settlements.
If you have questions or desire more information, you may call the Dispute Management Unit at 573-526-4951. You may also call our workers’ compensation customer service telephone number: 800-775-COMP(2667).