The Department of Labor and Industry (DLI) offers an alternative to formal litigation in resolving workers' compensation disputes. Parties may choose to be represented by an attorney in alternative dispute-resolution or may participate without representation.
The department is required by state law to resolve disputes involving medical and rehabilitation issues as early as possible in the dispute process. Before a medical or rehabilitation request can be scheduled for an administrative conference, a mediator determines whether a genuine dispute exists and attempts to resolve the dispute. If it is not possible to resolve the issue, the dispute is certified. This process is known as dispute certification.
Attorney fees may not be charged, subject to one exception, until the department has had an opportunity to attempt to resolve the issue. Typically, an employee or the employee's attorney will file a request for certification of a dispute with the department before filing a medical request or rehabilitation request. The request can also be made by telephone. A mediator then contacts the insurer to determine whether the dispute can be resolved. If the dispute is not resolved informally, the department issues a Certification of Dispute.
Certification is not required if an attorney is already representing the employee in other pending litigation. For example, if a claim petition is pending when a medical issue arises, the attorney may charge for services without representing the employee in the medical dispute without first getting the dispute certified by the department.