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Resolving Workers Compensation Disputes

Voluntary out-of-court dispute resolution

If there are other outstanding issues that cannot be handled through a couple of phone calls, your workers' compensation attorney may look at some out-of-court options to help resolve your case.

Known as mediation, different parties to a workers' compensation claim are provided with a confidential, collaborative forum to resolve differences. Judges and legal assistants trained in mediation help foster communication, clarify issues and help both sides assess their options. No ruling is handed down by these "mediators." They don't tell people how to resolve their differences – that's up to them!

This completely voluntary process can also be called a settlement conference. They're generally used to fully settle a case rather than resolve one particular issue.

Remember, participation in these conferences is completely voluntary. The other side does not have to honor your request to talk and resolve issues in this type of forum. If the workers' comp insurance company refuses to participate, there's nothing any legal authority can do about it.

But if they do agree to a settlement conference, you need to be prepared to fully settle your case.

Mediation sessions or settlement conferences begin as a joint meeting where the mediator explains the process and each party makes a short opening statement and gets the opportunity to ask clarifying questions. After that, each party meets with the mediator separately in what's known as a caucus to discuss the case. In many cases, the mediator will relay settlement offers and counteroffers between each of the parties.

These sessions are offered by the Office of Administrative Courts and the Division of Workers' Compensation for Colorado workers' compensation cases free of charge.

Formal hearings in a court

If you and your workers' comp insurance company fails to reach an agreement in a settlement conference or your Colorado workers' compensation attorney doesn't feel mediation will help resolve your case, a formal hearing can be requested.

These hearings are formal legal proceedings in which an administrative law judge decides what benefits, if any, must be paid among other issues. Each side will present evidence and call witnesses in a court type setting. Rulings handed down by the judge are binding unless either side decides they want to pursue an appeal.

If a judge renders a decision that you feel isn't based upon the law and the facts of your case, an appeal can be filed within 20 days or within the time-frame provided by the judge. Both parties will be notified and each will have to file a brief – in your case, it may be why you disagree with the judge's order.

One of two things will happen when both parties file their brief – either the administrative law judge will write another decision based on your appeal or the case will be referred to the Industrial Claim Appeals Panel for review... the panel has 60 days from when they receive your file to render its decision.

If you disagree with this panel's decision, you can appeal to the Colorado Court of Appeals within 20 days and from there to the Colorado Supreme Court. Keep in mind, the Supreme Court can refuse to hear your appeal if they so desire.

Going all the way to the Colorado Supreme Court is certainly an extreme action and not very common. Most of the time, cases are resolved well before going that far.

If you experience problems in obtaining your rightful workers' compensation benefits or you feel you're not being treated right by the insurance company, this is what you can expect to happen in a general sense. Each case is unique – some may only require a phone call to resolve while others may require court action.

Review your case with a licensed workers' compensation attorney in Colorado to understand the complexities and the process of obtaining your rightful benefits.

Next: Finding the Right Colorado Work Injury Attorney >>

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