Category to place the post in the last group of the blog page and not in the featured posts sections.

JOY TO THE WORLD – LAW PARTNERS’ YEAR-END MEETING

Joy to The world! Year-end has come,
Accounting has totaled the fees.
Let ev’ry heart
prepare him room
And all of the partners sing
And all of the partners sing
And all, all of the partners sing

Joy to the world! The year was good,
And now divide the spoils.
Misters Fields and Floods have a fight.
Misses Rock and Hill watch in fright,
Repeating the annual scene
Repeating the annual scene
Repeating, repeating the annual scene

At last there’s an end, some truth, no grace
Each one their worth to prove
The glories of righteous hours
The rain made with superpowers
And all go home with a check
And all go home with a check
And all, all go home with a check

Happy Holidays!

Knowledge Management

KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT – CREATING A MEDIATORS LIST

Every organization should have a process for creating a collective memory. It’s called knowledge management.

Knowledge management preserves team members’ experiences so everyone on that team can access them. This efficiency avoids mistakes and duplication of effort.

Still, it is not uncommon for people considering mediation to send an all-hands email asking, “Do you know a good mediator?” or “Who mediates these kinds of cases?”

Does your organization maintain a list of mediators? If not, start today. Ask team members to provide names of mediators and include comments, good and bad. It can be as simple as a shared Excel document. Column headers might be: Mediator, Contact Info, Cost, Outcome, Comment.

To keep information current, whenever someone mediates, that person should report their experience.

Whether you already have a mediators list or need to create one, make sure Teddy Snyder, SnyderMediations.com,  is on it.

Peace on Earth, Good Will to Men

You’re sure to hear this phrase repeatedly in December. What are you doing to make it happen?

Most readers of this message are professionals charged with managing disputes. You may spend a considerable amount of time strategizing how to annul the opposing party’s claims. That’s appropriate. It’s your job. But what practically every party involved in a conflict really wants is peace. Settling parties often say they are compromising in order to get peace.

It’s also your job to achieve the optimal result in a cost-efficient manner. Mediation is a way to achieve that outcome. A trained professional neutral will work with all parties to achieve their own bit of peace– not just at holiday season, but all year round.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS

The Importance of Facts

A big part of a mediator’s job is to elicit and isolate relevant facts. Then we can determine points of agreement and disagreement.

Mediations come in two basic types:
– Parties agree on the facts but disagree on how to interpret them
– Parties disagree on the facts

Facts

Model 1: We Agree on the Facts, But. . .
In this common situation, parties may disagree on issues such as:
– the degree of disability the facts describe
– the effect of facts pointing to a possible non-industrial cause of disability (apportionment)
– whether the injured worker could have returned to work under these facts
For example, in a recent mediation, the injured worker’s attorney obtained a last-minute vocational report to show the injured worker was 100% disabled. But that wasn’t the issue. The employer agreed the injured worker was completely disabled, but contended that the disability was largely caused by non-industrial factors. Mediation was the place to correctly define the issue.

After isolating the pivotal issues, we can define the maximum and minimum values for each side’s interpretation. Compromise mostly then comes down to narrowing the gap between the dollar demand and offer.

Model 2: Those Aren’t My Facts!
When parties are operating on different sets of facts, it’s almost impossible to settle. This situation can arise when parties are not communicating, often due to animosity built up over years. Examples include:
– Injured Worker has been treating the claimed injury with treaters unknown to the adjuster
– Injured Worker has treated for conditions which may or may not be related to the claimed injury
– Injured Worker has made another claim, consideration of which is relevant to resolution of this claim, such as a third-party liability claim for this injury or body part.

Facts exist, no matter how unfair it may seem to have to learn about them at a late date. In fact, for example, some treater recommended and provided treatment. In fact, a bill remains unpaid for such treatment. The employer can claim that the treatment was not reasonable and necessary or was not for the industrial injury, but the fact is still stubbornly out there.

Sometimes, revelation of these facts prompts adjournment of the mediation to allow time for collection and sharing of relevant documents. The mediation resumes at a later date. Once mediation participants recognize that a fact exists, they can readjust their viewpoint to see the case as Model 1.

The Last-Minute Report

On several occasions, counsel has appeared for mediation with an expert report dated the day before. Often this attorney has not served a copy of the report on opposing counsel. Nor did the advocate attach this document to the mediation brief.

What effect does this report have at mediation? I have never seen a last-minute report have a beneficial effect. Rather, it really ticks off the other side. Sometimes, the recipient threatens to cancel the mediation. My job is then to calm everyone down so we can negotiate.

The contents of the last-minute report are never a surprise. The report restates the author’s or some other expert’s opinion that bolsters that party’s position. I tell mediation participants that we will assume the opposing party could get an opposing report which fully bolsters their position. If the case does not settle, that will surely happen. For purposes of the mediation, however, the value of that new report is zero, nada, zilch.

Moral of the story: If that expert or that report was not obtained in the course of litigation, don’t bother getting it the day before mediation.

A Mediation Quiz

Find out how much you really know about mediation with this short True/False quiz. 
1. Opposing parties meet together with the mediator in caucus. T/F

2. No one can use documents disclosed solely in mediation as evidence if the case does not settle. T/F

3. If parties are unable to agree on settlement terms, the mediator will decide the case based on the information presented at the mediation. T/F

4. The process of getting everyone to agree to mediation and to a specific date, time and place is called “convening.” T/F

5. Mediators start a mediation with a mediator’s proposal. T/F

6. Settlement at mediation should be documented with a settlement agreement, stipulation to settle, or memorandum of understanding. T/F

ANSWERS  

  1. FALSE. Opposing parties meet together with the mediator in joint session. In caucus, only one side meets with the mediator
  2. TRUE. Strict confidentiality laws prohibit the introduction of evidence in any civil forum of information disclosed exclusively within mediation
  3. FALSE. Mediators never decide any issue in a case. The mediator facilitates communication so parties can come to an agreement. The parties have complete control of whether and how a dispute resolves.
  4. TRUE. Sometimes convening the mediation is as big a challenge as settling the dispute.
  5. FALSE. The mediator’s proposal may be made near the end of the mediation, never at the beginning. When it looks like parties will not move one more inch toward settlement, and the mediator has an idea what it will take to settle the case, the mediator may propose a way to resolution. Each party responds confidentially to the mediator’s proposal. If everyone agrees, there is a settlement. If fewer than all parties agree, no one will ever know others’ responses; everyone is left at the same bargaining position as before the mediator’s proposal.
  6. TRUE. Settlements should be documented while everyone is together. If parties are unable to complete a settlement agreement at the mediation, which is common, the main areas of agreement should be documented in a binding stipulation or MOU, memorandum of understanding.

HOW DID YOU DO? 
6 correct answers- Mediation Superstar

4-5 correct answers- You’ve got the right idea. Just brush up on the nuances

2-3 correct answers – Looks like you’ve done some reading, but are still pretty unclear on the particulars. Get more information here.

0-1 correct answers- Hey dude/girl, have you ever even been to a mediation?  Please call me, and I’ll talk you through how it works.

Held Hostage by a Torturous Claim? How to Escape

Do you feel like you and your clients are hostage to a claim that goes on and on? Every treatment request triggers a new round of litigation. The injury happened decades ago, and the disability percentage still has not finalized. The parties are at each other’s throats.

You can use tips from professional hostage negotiators to free the prisoners of that claim.

Keep Everyone Calm 
By definition, kidnappers are making unreasonable demands. The negotiator’s job is to keep everyone calm to work through the process without anyone taking sudden destructive action. 

Your opponent is a jerk, and your client has a knee-jerk negative reaction to every proposed alternative. Claim litigation can be stressful. The lawyer needs to walk a line between assuring the client of zealous advocacy and being a voice of reason. Near-hysteria can be contagious. So is calm.

In mediation among contentious parties, the mediator can separate them into separate areas, called caucuses, to block confrontation. The mediator channels messages between parties in a calm, reasoned way.

Active Listening
Hostage negotiators are trained to pay attention to the kidnapper, show respect for the kidnapper’s statements, acknowledge receipt of the message, and even read between the lines to figure out the best way to proceed to resolution. You need a mediator who knows how to do these things and can help you do them, too.

Keep Talking
Whether people are trying to defuse a hostage situation or settle an injury claim, as long as everyone is still talking, things will keep moving toward resolution. Prepare yourself and other participants coming with you to be patient. Bring snacks and something to do while the mediator is caucusing with other groups. Do not bring children. Confirm no one is carrying a weapon.

Continue to explore every path toward resolution. More often than you might imagine, an issue emerges that parties were previously unaware of.

At last. . . 
The most fraught situations can end in peace when participants control emotions and continue to communicate their needs.

Evaluating the Denied Workers Comp Claim

I recently mediated a partially denied claim where the attorney for the injured worker had no idea what the value of the future medical costs might be. It was an old dog claim, and treaters had been deposed multiple times.

When a printout provides historic data, it’s pretty easy to project future expenses. Sure, parties might disagree about the credibility of treaters’ recommendations or the likely cost of future expenses. They might debate the effect of inflation vs. drugs going generic. But parties can compromise on those things. There are ways to prepare for contingencies in a Compromise & Release. An experienced mediator can help you.

Perhaps this issue is in the NSS category. On the other hand, I see so many parties come to mediation unprepared, I’m taking the time to spell it out.

Discovery Is How You Find Out Things
The Principal Treating Physician (PTP) submitted a report recommending expensive future surgeries and treatment. The PTP was deposed—multiple times. Experts for the employer were deposed and of course said that the need for those procedures was non-industrial. Did anyone ask those experts what such a surgery or treatment might cost?

There’s This Thing Called the Internet
As an experiment, I Googled “cost of fusion surgery los angeles”.  I also Googled “how much does Medicare pay for fusion surgery los angeles.”

I didn’t spend a lot of time on this, but I did browse:
https://www.healthcarebluebook.com/page_ProcedureDetails.aspx?cftId=22&g=SpinalFusion+(lumbar)
https://www.beckersspine.com/spine/item/35786-spinal-fusion-price-in-30-largest-us-cities.html
https://health.costhelper.com/back-surgery.html

Mediation participants often bring in printouts from various websites showing medication costs.

A person might want to argue about the numbers shown on these pages. For one, it isn’t clear that Worker’s Comp wouldn’t get it cheaper. In other words, the value to the employer is different than the value to the injured worker.

Also, many injured workers have Medicare or Medi-Cal (Medicaid) coverage. This means they have lots of room to negotiate.

Informed negotiators negotiate. Uninformed ones throw out numbers without support. You could be using a number that’s too high or too low. When your position lacks credibility, the case is unlikely to settle.

Claims Organizations Have Data
Claims organizations are in the business of paying for medical treatment. Claims professionals see bills for the same procedures again and again. They set reserves based on data. Ask for that data from your client or your opponent. If you are the Applicant’s Attorney, the worst that can happen is that they refuse. That says a lot, too.

No Excuses
There’s no excuse for coming to mediation while clueless about the value of the case. You should repeatedly re-evaluate throughout the case’s pendency. Preparation and good faith negotiation can end cases earlier, saving everyone time, money and stress.

Are You A Courageous Negotiator?

Merriam Webster defines courage as the mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty. The easy way to litigate is to react to catalysts from outside sources, such as the court, opposing counsel, or a medical emergency.

The courageous negotiator is proactive. That includes knowing how to push a claim to settlement. Courageous negotiators have strong values, fully use their skills, and purposely confront challenges.

Keep At It
Especially when claims drag on for years, it’s easy to lose sight of the end goal. Here’s how to keep moving forward:

1. Keep evaluating. Courageous negotiators know what their case is worth. Don’t be afraid to talk about a big number—or a small one– if that’s really the value of the claim. The old saying is that lawsuits are not like wine—they don’t get better with age. Re-evaluate as new information comes in.

2. Make offers. Don’t ask, “Do you want to settle?” Make settlement offers– even ridiculous ones. Solicit counter-offers. Let parties know that you are willing to duke it out, but you are also smart enough to know how to settle. Competent professionals don’t fight simply because they don’t know how to do anything else. Courageous people act even when they face the possibility of an adverse outcome.

3. Get help. Mediation is an effective way to settle cases. Talk to your mediator. A pre-mediation consultation is confidential even if the mediation never occurs. Information shared with the mediator can never be used, and the mediator cannot be subpoenaed. Unlike the parties who must deal with every detail of managing the case, the mediator concentrates on defining and resolving issues to reach settlement. Take advantage of that expertise.

Often the best way to promote communication is at mediation. Parties can be candid about the good and bad points of their case. Bargaining through the mediator can calm anger.
 
An agreement to mediate is not a commitment to settle. It is a commitment to talk about the possibility of settlement. If you’re not getting counter-offers, the mediator can focus parties on what needs to be done to move ahead.
 
There is no charge to talk with me about convening a mediation.

You know that ugly case is probably going to settle. Muster your courage to make it happen sooner.

Is Mediation Effective in Workers’ Comp?

Babe Ruth’s lifetime batting average was .342. Studies in states with a history of workers’ compensation mediation suggest your success rate with it is likely to be a whole lot better.

In Florida, parties must mediate workers’ compensation claims within 130 days of the filing of a petition for benefits. Results for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2013, showed a 74% success rate, defined as partial or complete resolution of the issues.

The Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry reported that the state’s mediation resolution success rate between June 2007 and September 2008 was never less than 60%. The success rate was 100% in four of those months.

The Maryland Judiciary’s Mediation and Conflict Resolution Office conducted a study where half of Baltimore’s workers’ compensation filings were referred to mediation. The 2002 report details the results. Measured at various points in the litigation process, the mediated cases were consistently found to conclude more quickly and with less discovery than the control group. For example, 83% of cases in the workers’ compensation mediation group were disposed of before their scheduled trial date, compared with 70% in the control group.

In 1992, the Dallas Mediation Project reviewed 981 mediated cases. Workers’ compensation, contract disputes and collection cases showed the highest level of resolution—87% of these workers’ compensation cases settled through mediation. Motor vehicle claims settled 85% of the time, and other personal injury claims settled 77% of the time.

Don’t be afraid to step up to the mediation plate. You might hit a home run.