Work comp: Alternative dispute-resolution services
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 or may participate without representation.
There are four primary functions of DLI's Alternative Dispute Resolution unit: customer assistance; administrative conferences; dispute certification; and mediation.
DLI mediators answer questions from injured employees, employers, medical providers, rehabilitation consultants, attorneys and others interested in obtaining information about workers' compensation. Sometimes mediators will contact insurers to try to resolve issues about workers' compensation claims.
Administrative conferences – medical and rehabilitation issues
If issues about medical treatment for vocational rehabilitation services are unresolved, you can request an administrative conference. The purpose of an administrative conference at the department is to resolve certified disputes involving medical and rehabilitation services. The staff member conducting the conference helps the parties discuss and resolve their differences. If an agreement is not possible, the mediator issues a Decision and Order, which can be appealed.
Typical rehabilitation and medical disputes involve a conflict about a change of doctor or rehabilitation consultant, or a conflict about whether certain medical or rehabilitation services should be provided. Parties can request an administrative conference by filing either a Medical Request form or Rehabilitation Request form with the department.
Before an administrative conference is scheduled, 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. Attorneys are generally required to have a dispute certified to be able to claim attorney’s fees on disputed medical or vocational rehabilitation issues.
DLI provides free mediation services to all parties to any workers' compensation dispute. Mediation is voluntary. If all parties are agreeable, a department mediator assists the parties in resolving their workers' compensation issues. If an agreement is reached, the mediator arranges for the Mediation Resolution/Award to be signed, awarded, and served and filed. Mediation services are provided free of charge. Parties may select from a staff of more than a dozen mediators, all of whom are professionally trained in mediation and negotiation techniques. DLI mediators bring a wide range of experience to the mediation process, including backgrounds in litigation, nursing, vocational rehabilitation and claims management.
For additional information about the Department of Labor and Industry's Alternative Dispute Resolution unit, call 651-284-5005 or 800-342-5354.