Why do so many advocates stumble when it comes to preparing for mediation?
Perhaps the most important thing a lawyer can do to prepare for mediation is to write a brief. Done properly, the process forces the writer to focus and get ready to negotiate.
But many people do it wrong, mostly by providing irrelevant and obsolete information, and not providing the data necessary to evaluate the claim. This problem is so common, I now instruct parties in my confirmation letter what to include.
The brief doesn’t have to be fancy. I don’t care if there’s a caption. An email message is fine. What would be helpful would be subheadings for the categories shown below.
Transmit the brief at least seven days in advance of the mediation. This helps everyone prepare, including the mediator. Your brief may prompt a request for a document.
Showing up with your brief at mediation wastes participants’ time and money as the mediator reads the brief. Late preparation can raise new questions, and sometimes leads to adjournment and a second session to allow time for everyone to get answers.
Claims professionals, you know the mediation is coming up. Ask your lawyer to provide you a copy of the brief at the same time it is sent to the mediator. This assures that you and your advocate are on the same page. You can also monitor the timeliness of the preparation.
The brief should briefly (that’s why it’s called a brief) recite facts such as the dates of injury, affected body parts and the injured worker’s date of birth.
State specifically if indemnity is open. If it is open, what do you think is the correct percentage and dollar amount? If less than 100%, what are the permanent disability advances to date? At what rate are they being paid? Is there any argument about apportionment, overpayments or retro? Do the parties agree on the declaration of intent? If parties disagree on an issue, spell out your position. What does the other party say?
Copies of narrative medical reports (agreed medical evaluator, qualified medical evaluator, primary treating physician) from the last two years will be very helpful, as will a printout of medical expense payments for that period.
Is there a current (within the last year) Medicare set-aside? If so, attach a copy to your brief. If the injured worker is a Medicare enrollee or is at least 62 1/2 years old, get a current MSA report and attach it to your brief. If you are not obtaining an MSA because the injured worker is undocumented or is otherwise ineligible for Medicare, say so in your brief. If you have obtained Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services approval, provide a copy.
Are there any other issues to be resolved? Mediations are most successful when parties are able to prepare for negotiation and do not encounter surprise issues.
Indicate if the brief is confidential or is being shared with the other party. You may choose to create two briefs, one for exchange and one confidential.
Attorney Teddy Snyder mediates workers' compensation cases throughout California. She can be contacted through WCMediator.com.
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