What Is Alternative Dispute Resolution?
When it comes to workers’ compensation disputes, Florida law required both parties in the dispute go through mediation before a claim can be presented to a judge. Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) has been utilized by the Florida court system to resolve disputes for over 30 years. ADR processes offer litigants court-connected opportunities to resolve their disputes without judicial intervention.
Understanding Mediation Versus Arbitration
Both Mediation and Arbitration are methods of ADR used to avoid litigation. Here are the differences between the two methods:
• Mediation: In mediation, both parties are encouraged to work out a resolution. Mediation is an informal settlement conference with a mediator to guide the parties in arriving at a mutually agreeable solution. The mediator has no decision making power, only the two opposing parties can choose a resolution.
• Arbitration: Arbitration is a more formal process where the mediator is usually a retired judge, senior lawyer or other professional. Both parties give testimony and are questioned. The mediator in arbitration can give a legally binding decision that both parties must follow.
The Benefits Of Mediating In The State Of Florida
There are many benefits of mediating your worker’s compensation case including:
● Faster Settlements: Mediation usually takes a few days or weeks to settle. A trial can take years.
● Saving Money: Mediation is usually less expensive than litigation or trial.
● Greater Satisfaction Between Both Parties: Mediators usually steer the two parties away from anger and confrontation to one of cooperation.
● Confidentiality: Unlike court cases, which are public mediation is strictly confidential.
What Can I Expect In A Workers’ Compensation Mediation?
Under Florida’s workers’ compensation laws after filing a petition for benefits you must mediate within 120 days. It is usually held at the State Board of Workers’ Compensation with a State Board member as the mediator. Here is how the process works:
• Session begins with both parties and their attorneys meeting with the mediator. Both attorneys make their opening statement and defend their position on your injuries, treatments, and future earning potential.
• Once the opening statements are complete you and your attorney will go into a separate room and meet privately with the mediator.
• The mediator will help identify issues, bargain and will go back and forth between the two parties with settlement offers.
• Once an agreement is reached, the mediator writes a memorandum of understanding. A memorandum of understanding is a formal document that outlines the agreement the two parties have agreed upon.
• In most cases at that point the attorneys draft a Settlement Agreement that is signed and then filed with the courts.
Do I Need To Hire A Workers’ Compensation Attorney?
It is always a good idea to consult with an attorney after any workplace injury. However, here are some situations where you will always want to work with an attorney:
● Medical Issues: If your injuries prevent you from going back to work or you suffer a permanent disability you will need to fight for full compensation.
● You Were Injured Due To Misconduct: If someone other than your employer caused your injury while you were on the job, if your employer does not have workers' compensation, or if your boss caused your injury on purpose.
● Retaliation By Your Employer: If you were fired, demoted, had your hours or pay cut. Your boss cannot retaliate against you because you filed a workers’ compensation claim, it is illegal.
● Your Settlement Offer Is Inadequate: If the settlement does not cover all of your medical bills and lost wages.
● Your Boss Denies Your Claim: It is not uncommon for workers’ compensation insurers or employers to reject legitimate claims, because many employees will not appeal.
● You apply for Social Security Disability (SSD): If you receive or plan to apply for SSD, your workers’ compensation benefits could lower your disability payments.
When it comes to workers’ compensation laws, the St Petersburg Lawyer, Michael Babboni has the experience and expertise to help you win a fair settlement. He will protect you during an ADR, but will make sure if the terms aren’t fair, he’ll fight for you in court. Call 1-727-381-9200 today for a free consultation to learn more.