Mediation in Florida Workers’ Compensation Cases
If you’re injured at work, there are laws to assist you with payment of medical expenses and lost compensation until you can return to your job. In Florida, most employers are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance to provide you with the compensation you need to get back to work. The workers’ compensation claim process starts when you file your claim with the Florida Division of Workers’ Compensation, but it can be complicated if your employer contests the allegations and refuses to pay. In such situations, you may be required to go to workers’ compensation mediation to resolve disputed issues, so it’s helpful to understand the basics.
How does mediation work in a workers’ compensation case?
Florida law requires parties in a workers’ compensation dispute to go through mediation before a claim for benefits can be presented to a judge at an official hearing. An injured worker triggers the mediation process when he or she files a Petition for Benefits for compensation that the employer refuses to provide. Mediation is an informal session where the employee, employer, and workers’ compensation insurer gather to discuss contested issues included in the Petition. A professional mediator is also present to guide the parties in conversation, with the goal of reaching compromise on disputed matters.
What are the basics of the mediation process?
The parties, their lawyers, or the state mediator’s office will schedule the mediation, which must be conducted within 130 days after filing the Petition. The session takes place at the state mediator’s office, and there is no charge to any of the parties for the mediator’s services. During the session, the parties will discuss the facts stated in the Petition, through other issues may arise if they agree as such.
At times, the employer and/or insurance company may mention the possibility of a lump sum settlement amount to resolve all claims that the employee makes. Under this type of arrangement, the worker releases all claims, which means there is no right to pursue any past or future workers’ compensation benefits.
A mediation may be completed in just a few hours, a full day, or several days. The session continues until the parties reach a compromise on all disputed issues, or until they determine that resolution won’t be possible.
Is mediation the end of my case?
If you’re able to agree, the mediator will notify the workers’ compensation judge that all outstanding issues are resolved and the case is closed. Unresolved issues go to a final hearing with the judge, who schedules the matter within 210 days from the filing of the Petition.
Every Florida workers’ compensation mediation case is different, so it’s important for claimants and their attorneys to work with a qualified mediator during the process. Experienced mediation professionals have the training and credentials to encourage cooperation among the parties. A skilled mediator works to increase the likelihood of a fair, equitable arrangement that avoids expensive litigation. If you have additional questions about how mediation works in Florida workers’ compensation matters, please contact the Tampa office of Feldman Mediation & Arbitration Services. Our mediation professionals can provide more information on the process and discuss your options.