If you’ve ever been hurt at work, you may have already begun the process of filing a workers’ compensation claim. If your accident or illness is obviously the result of a workplace incident, you may not have any problems obtaining the medical care and other benefits you expect. If your claim was denied, however, you may have little option but to argue your case before the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry’s Office of Adjudication.
The prospect of going to court probably makes you nervous. Having an attorney with you can help with the discomfort and make your case go more smoothly, but a lot of people prefer alternative dispute resolution methods over the adversarial process you see in court. Is it possible to handle the matter in a less confrontational way?
Yes. The Office of Adjudication does allow alternative dispute resolution in workers’ comp disputes, including mediation. In the area of workers’ compensation, however, the mediator will actually be a WC judge.
In fact, mediation is the default option whenever an employer or an employee files a petition with the Office of Adjudication. However, informal discussions and conferences aimed at negotiated settlements are also available.
If mediation facilitated by a WC judge doesn’t result in a settlement right away, you can always try traditional methods. However, you’re free to return to mediation or have a settlement conference at any point in the process, if both parties agree.
If you choose the option of an informal settlement conference, it will also take place with a WC judge. One interesting note: If you don’t have a lawyer at an informal settlement conference, your employer can’t either.