Teaching Risk Management to an Eight-Year-Old

chopsticks

“Grandma, why did you move my chopsticks?”

My extended family was dining on Cashew Chicken, Mongolian Beef, and fried wantons. Without missing a beat I answered, “Well, Ashley, I’m all about risk management. I noticed your chopsticks were sticking out over your lap, and there was a risk you or I might knock them to the floor [notice the diplomacy there], so I initiated a safety program. I rotated the chopsticks on your plate to stick out over the table instead of the floor.”

Dead silence.

Get “In Pro Per” Claims Off The Books

You know the claims I’m talking about: the really old claims where the Injured Worker is representing himself/herself. Let’s call them “in pro per”s.  Active in pro pers file one court paper after another, causing the insurer or self-insured employer to fund what seems like a never-ending stream of money to send a representative to the Board. The in pro per’s papers may not state a recognizable claim. Pressed for time, the Information and Assistance officer may give the in pro per short shrift.  Defense attorneys with varying degrees of patience usually do, too.

But what if what the parties really need is a sort of an interpreter, a mediator.

Mediating an in pro per’s claim demonstrates respect for the in pro per.  The feeling of lack of respect and inability to get heard is often what drives the in pro per to keep summoning the employer to court.

“Why would I waste time and money on a worthless claim?” you may ask. Because you’re spending time and money now, and mediation is a way to end that endless cycle.

Sometimes the in pro per has a bona fide complaint, but without professional assistance has not been able to communicate it. The neutral mediator is often able to re-state the concern in a way the parties can address and put past them. The mediator can help each party see the other side’s point of view.

Are You A Rule-Breaker?

Workers Compensation professionals have to know a lot: the California Labor Code, Title 8 regulations, state and federal rules governing health care entitlements. To make things even harder, the rules of this highly-governed road keep changing. Workers Compensation may be the most intricate, heavily regulated area of practice. These rules can constrain the parties’ ability to negotiate satisfactory settlements.

You only have to know one rule about mediation: everything that happens within the mediation, including pre-mediation and follow-up communication, is confidential.  You don’t have to share your mediation brief with the other side if you don’t want to. In mediation, in contrast to WCAB practice or arbitration, you can get creative. You can break the rules.

 Mediated agreements can include provisions a WCJ could never order, such as agreements relating to actions in other forums.  You can settle claims which haven’t been made yet.  Parties can use creative solutions like structured settlements and medical care trusts. The mediator can help you brainstorm.

BREAK THE RULES

As mediator, I help parties settle cases.  There are no rulings in mediation, so no one loses.  Go ahead, let’s break some rules– and settle the case.