Mediation is often considered one of the most useful tools within the Workers’ Compensation system and is mandated by statute for all Workers’ Compensation cases (see §440.25, F.S. and Rules 60Q-6.110, 6.111 and 6.112, F.A.C.). A mediation is an informal meeting attended by the claimant, a representative of the employer or the employer’s insurance carrier, and each party’s attorney. A neutral third party known as a mediator also attends the meeting and facilitates discussions between the parties.
Workers’ Compensation Mediators are required to abide by the Florida Rules for Certified & Court-Appointed Mediators. The Mediator Ethics Advisory Committee provides written advisory opinions to mediators subject to these rules in response to ethical questions arising from the Standards of Professional Conduct. Such opinions must be consistent with Florida Supreme Court decisions on mediator discipline.
The mediator’s goal is to resolve the parties’ disputes at this informal meeting before the case proceeds to trial. The mediator does not have the power to decide the dispute or force either party to agree. Instead, the mediator’s sole purpose is to help both parties come to a mutually beneficial agreement.
However, if the parties are unable to settle their disputes regarding the benefits claimed in the petition for benefits, the mediator must file a report to the judge of compensation claims (JCC), stating that the parties attended mediation but were unable to resolve their dispute. Under Florida law, the mediator is unable to provide any other information as to what occurred at mediation.
There are advantages to mediation over the traditional approach of taking your case to trial. For instance, the Mediation process takes much less time than moving a case through the Office of the Judges of Compensation Claims (OJCC), which may take up to 210 days, or seven (7) months, assuming no continuances are granted, or even years if they are. Mediating cases resolves issues and leads to settlement, usually in one day, costs much less money, and results in less stress and anxiety for everyone.
Further, what happens in Mediation stays in Mediation. In other words, Mediation is statutorily mandated to be a confidential process. For the most part, court hearings are public record, so virtually anyone can learn what took place. On the other hand, what occurs during a Workers’ Compensation Mediation remains strictly confidential. Only the parties to the dispute, and the Workers’ Compensation Mediator, know what has been said during the mediation conference. Moreover, the private Mediator cannot be forced to give testimony as to details of the Mediation.
Unlike a JCC ruling, Mediation offers the parties the opportunity to customize the terms of their agreement to resolve the issues or even the case. In contrast, the JCC’s ruling is imposed on the parties, leaving the parties with a choice; accept the ruling or appeal the case and spend more time and money in court. In a Mediation, the parties negotiate the resolution of their dispute, and the resolution need not conform to any law or rule, and sometimes are of a nature which a JCC cannot offer. Therefore, in many cases, Mediation produces a mutually agreeable resolution of issues for the parties. Importantly, pursuant to statute and case law, a mediated agreement is fully enforceable by the JCC.
Finally, Workers’ Compensation Mediation takes place under the auspices of a trained mediator who is certified by the Florida Supreme Court as a Circuit Civil Mediator and acts as a neutral third party during the process. Martin Leibowitz is a seasoned Workers’ Compensation lawyer with 36 years of experience, representing insurance carriers/TPA’s/Servicing Agents and injured Employees, and trained in conflict resolution. Mr. Leibowitz prides himself on navigating both the factual and emotional aspects of every case. While no legal advice is provided, as required by applicable rules, he will guide the parties through the dispute resolution process, raising pertinent issues and suggesting alternative solutions to achieve a mutually acceptable resolution of the conflict. Mr. Leibowitz also encourages the parties to think “outside the box” in considering solutions, thereby enabling them to move in the direction that suits them best.
In a nutshell, the process of Workers’ Compensation Mediation is the informal negotiated resolution of conflict involving one’s legal rights, where all parties are equally heard and respected. Martin Leibowitz’s philosophy is that injured employees and their employers can achieve the resolution of Workers’ Compensation issues and disputes when facilitated by a Mediator’s skilled guidance.
Martin L. Leibowitz has been a Florida Supreme Court Certified Circuit Court Mediator and qualified to serve as a Workers’ Compensation Mediator for over 22 years. Having served as legal counsel to both injured workers and workers’ compensation insurance carriers/TPA’s/Servicing Agents, Mr. Leibowitz is able to effectively address the interests of all parties, while facilitating discussion and helping work toward a common resolution of individual issues or the case in its entirety.
Please contact the Law Office of Martin L. Leibowitz, P.A. to inquire into mediator availability and fees.