Workers’ Comp Mediation is Just Around the Corner (by Stanford E. Lacy, Founding Partner, Collins & Lacy, P.C.)

The South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission’s Mediation Committee has finished its work, and the wheels are in motion to adopt regulations to govern mediations in workers’ compensation.  Led by a determined Commissioner Derrick Williams, the Committee only needed to meet twice to hammer out regulations and forms consistent with the committee’s vision of a mediation system that will work in South Carolina.  Here’s what came out of the Committee’s efforts:
Regulation 67-1801.  Mediation.
It provides:
1          Commissioners have the discretion to order mediation and to name the mediator. The Commissioner must retain jurisdiction of the case until the issues are resolved.
2.         Mediation is mandatory prior to a hearing for claims arising under §42-9-10, §42-9-30(21), occupational disease cases, third-party reduction claims, contested death claims, mental/mental injury claims, and cases of concurrent jurisdiction under the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act and the Federal Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act.  Claims involving multiple workers arising out of employment with the same employer also must be mediated prior to hearing.
3.         The parties may mutually select the mediator.
4.         The parties must select a mediator within 10 days of the filing of a Form 51 or a response to a Form 21, and the mediation must be completed within 60 days.
5.         Representatives may attend the mediation by telephone.
6.         Rules of confidentiality, decorum, and good faith are the same as in mediations generally.
Modifications to existing forms.
1          Form 50.
            The Form 50 will be modified to add Paragraph 15 in which the claimant can request mediation, reject mediation or indicate whether the case is one that requires mediation.
2.         Form 51 and Form 21.
            The Form 51 and Form 21 will similarly be modified to add Paragraph 13 and Paragraph VI, respectively, in which the defense will indicate whether it wants mediation, rejects mediation or mediation is required.
3          Form 70.
            The Form 70 will be created for the mediator to report the outcome of the mediation to the Commission.  Was the case resolved?  If so, what result?  If not, why not? Is a hearing requested?  The Form 70 will not become part of the Commission’s file.
Commissioner Williams is presenting the regulation and forms at the Commission’s January business meeting.  If approved, the new regulation will go through the process of publication in the State Register, public hearings and submission to the legislature. We will keep you posted on new developments as they happen. It is very likely mediation will become an integral part of the workers’ compensation process this year.  -Stan Lacy
This is a welcomed evolution in workers’ compensation. Mediation has become commonplace in civil litigation cases and has been instrumental in resolving complex cases.  Both parties, injured workers and insurance carriers, will benefit from this coming change.  It also reinforces the need for claimants to retain experienced workers’ compensation attorneys who can effectively present their cases at mediation and obtain the best possible outcome.
At Reeves, Aiken & Hightower LLP, our lawyers are experienced workers’ compensation attorneys.  Robert J. Reeves is a former Registered Nurse (RN) who has actually treated patients with the same type of serious injuries he now represents in workers’ compensation cases.  Both Robert J. Reeves and Arthur K. Aiken are former insurance defense attorneys who know how to anticipate and prepare for defenses and insurance company tactics.  During our twenty-two (22) years each of practicing law, we have successfully handled virtually every type of workers’ compensation injury, including neck, back, shoulder, knee accidents, closed head / brain injury, herniated disks, bulging disks, diskectomy surgery, fusion procedures, arthroscopy, automobile accidents on the job, psychological / post traumatic stress, permanent and total disability claims, and wrongful death. We welcome the opportunity to sit down and personally discuss your case. Compare our attorneys’ credentials to any other firm. Then call us for a private consultation.