What is Alternative Dispute Resolution?
July 27, 2019
Injured workers and their employers may engage in an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) as part of the workers’ compensation process. If an employer files a petition with the Workers’ Compensation Office of Adjudication, mediation is mandatory and will be scheduled by the judge at the beginning of the case. The parties may also choose to participate in voluntary ADR later in the proceedings either in the form of mediation, a settlement conference, or an informal conference.
Mandatory vs Voluntary Mediation
The Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act was amended in 2006 to include a mandatory mediation system. Judges are required to set a mediation date at the first hearing and parties must attempt to settle their cases informally unless the judge determines that mediation would be futile. The mediation judge overseeing the mediation will be appointed by, and report to, the workers’ compensation judge presiding over the case.
The parties may request voluntary mediation, even if they were unable to come to an agreement during mandatory mediation or if a judge previously found mediation to be futile. Before requesting voluntary mediation or a settlement conference, the parties must first agree on which judge they want to oversee their case and when the mediation will occur based on the judge’s availability. Parties who cannot agree on a judge to conduct the mediation may seek assistance from the district judge manager.
Benefits of ADR
ADR provides several benefits over litigation, including that it can:
- Allow for more tailored settlements. When parties can speak face to face without the constraints of being in court, they often experience improved communication. ADR allows parties to narrow the issues, address each other’s needs, and come to more personal, comprehensive agreements.
- Provide finality. Parties are less likely to file appeals or petitions after a settlement agreement has been approved by a judge. As opposed to litigation, ADR provides both parties the opportunity to reach mutually beneficial terms.
- Save time and money. Litigation can be very expensive and time-consuming. Both parties can save time and money by settling the dispute informally. ADR can also allow parties greater control over the outcome of their case.
- Take place informally. Parties may not feel comfortable litigating their case. ADR provides the opportunity to settle cases informally, without the stress of litigation.
Topics to Discuss During Mediation
The parties must each submit a Confidential Mediation Memorandum to the mediation judge prior to the mediation to inform the judge of the issues and the nature of the case in advance. Workers should prepare for the mediation by compiling all evidence in support of their claim, including medical records and reports. Some issues that parties may wish to discuss during mediation include:
- Medical bills
- Potential third-party liability
- Projected future medical expenses
- Workers’ compensation benefits
Reading Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Larry Pitt & Associates, P.C. Help Workers Settle Their Cases Through Alternative Dispute Resolution
Although you are not required to have an attorney for mediation or other forms of ADR, it can be helpful to have a Reading workers’ compensation lawyer at Larry Pitt & Associates, P.C. on your side. Our experienced attorneys can guide you through the process, negotiate your claim, and ensure that you receive a fair settlement. For a free case evaluation, contact us at 888-PITT-LAW or complete our online contact form.
Located in Philadelphia, Bensalem, Lansdowne, and Reading, we represent injured workers in Berks County, Bucks County, Chester County, Delaware County, Montgomery County, Philadelphia County, and throughout Pennsylvania, including those in the communities of Abington, Ambler, Ardmore, Bala Cynwyd, Bensalem, Clifton Heights, Crum Lynne, Darby, Downingtown, Doylestown, Drexel Hill, Essington, Folcroft, Glenolden, Haverford, Havertown, Holmes, Kutztown, Lansdowne, Media, Merion Station, Morton, Narberth, Norristown, Norwood, Philadelphia, Prospect Park, Quakertown, Reading, Roxborough, Sharon Hill, Upper Darby, West Chester, and Wynnewood.