Friday, October 30, 2009

Prehearings and Settlement Conferences

In workers compensation cases prehearings and settlement conferences are incredibly important matters. Click here to visit the Division information page . Also click here. What is important about prehearings is that they often simplify and clarify situations. For example when the other side does not supply requested materials that are discoverable a claimant can file a Motion to Compel. A Prehearing Administrative Law Judge (PALJ) can issue an order requiring compliance. Should anyone fail to comply there can be severe sanctions. Settlement conferences are also valuable ways to resolve cases. After all many cases have disputes or issues which can require a hearing. In particular the extent of a claimants permanent disability is often disputed by the parties. If the dispute goes to a hearing then we must wait for the Order which can be appealed and sometimes all this can take many months. A settlement is a compromise between the parties to obtain closure with a certain outcome. Perhaps the insurer has admitted the claimant is permanently impaired but the amount is subject to more then one interpretation or even the claimant feels he is now permanently and totally disabled. Such matters are very contested and settlements afford the parties a chance to resolve matters and move on with their lives. However it does involve compromise from both sides. What is nice about settlement conferences is that a judge is involved as a mediator to try to work out a compromise. This judge never hears the case at a hearing but is there just to help the parties settle if possible. I've had cases where the settlement efforts did not succeed but usually with some effort they can work. It does require that you accept a compromise. If either side cannot do this to settle a case then we take the longer road of a hearing with likely appeals. Sometimes a settlement is not the way to go or the parties are too far apart in the negotiations so the best answer is to proceed with a hearing. The Rule on Prehearings and Settlement Conferences pertains to these proceedings. Also the statutes are here and here.

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