What is Mediation in Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation?

Mediation in Pennsylvania workers’ compensation cases is a process that can be utilized to potentially settle workers’ compensation cases. It is a permanent fixture in Pennsylvania workers’ compensation litigation. Mediation is now mandatory since the 2006 amendments to the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act.

What is the goal of mediation in my workers’ compensation case?

The goal of a Pennsylvania workers’ compensation case mediation is to settle workers’ compensation claims.  However, mediation can also be used to narrow issues within the litigation. It is a process to have a discussion about the issues in your case, potential values of your case, and address other issues, such as outstanding medical bills.

Who attends a mediation?

In the Pre-Covid era, mediations took place in-person at a workers’ compensation hearing location. Since COVID, many mediations are now done by video. However, some may still be done in-person if the specific mediating Workers’ Compensation Judge (WCJ) is having in-person hearings on that day or if the parties request an in-person mediation.

Generally, at a mediation will be the injured worker, the injured worker’s attorney, the attorney for the employer/insurance carrier, and the mediating WCJ. Typically, the mediation WCJ would be a different WCJ than the one assigned to your case that will make a decision in your case. In some instances, but certainly not frequent, an employer or insurance carrier representative may attend the mediation or be present by phone.

What does mediation process look like?

You should expect a mediation to take anywhere from 10 minutes to a few hours. It depends on the complexity of the case and the issues involved in the case. Generally speaking, you should plan for at least half-hour to an hour.

All mediating WCJs are different and handle their mediations differently. Typically, you should expect the WCJ to explain the mediating process to you. At the onset, there are some discussions between the WCJ and the two attorneys. There is brief discussion about whether a demand has been formulated and provided to the defendant and whether the defendant has made an initial monetary offer. Some WCJs are very brief and jump right into discussion on demands and offers. Before that begins, WCJ separate the parties into different video rooms or if in-person in separate offices.

WCJ will typically begin by speaking to the injured worker and counsel on facts, medical conditions, and explaining the process. The WCJ will then go back and forth from rooms exchanging offers and lower demands. A going back and forth process will take place until an agreement is reached or an impasse is met. Some WCJ may even discuss their individual thoughts about your case and where they may value your case. They may even discuss weaknesses in your case so that you are aware. It is important to not get upset. The WCJ is just trying to help resolve the case.

Do I have to settle my case at a Pennsylvania workers’ compensation mediation?

The big thing to remember here is that mediation is NOT a requirement to settle your case. A mediating WCJ helps to TRY and resolve the case. However, the WCJ cannot force you or the employer to settle. Whether you settle or not is your choice after discussion with your attorney. The WCJ cannot force you to take less than you wanted and the WCJ cannot force the defendant to pay more than they want. In that regard, it is entirely a voluntary process. Additionally, it is very important to understand that if you do not settle, any discussions you had with the mediating WCJ are NOT shared with the WCJ that will ultimately decide your case.  The important note here is that you should not settle your workers’ compensation case unless you feel completely comfortable doing so.  We can help.  You can also read more about Pennsylvania workers’ compensation settlements here.

Pennsylvania workers’ compensation is a complex process. Settling your case is critically important in terms of value and in terms of whether settlement is actually in your best interest. Mooney Law has obtained tens of millions of dollars for injured workers throughout Pennsylvania and Maryland. We have also litigated tons of cases to decision when it is in our client’s best interest. Settlement is simply not in the best interest of all injured workers. We can help. Just call us today for an absolutely FREE consultation to discuss your workers’ compensation case. Call today at 717-200-HELP or 717-632-4656. We stand ready to fight for and protect your benefits you deserve. You can also email us for a consult at info@mooney4law.com. Finally, you can also complete the Schedule a Consultation form on our website at Mooney4Law.com.

Mark Buterbaugh

Attorney representing injured workers and Social Security Disability clients in Pennsylvania and Maryland.