Mediation is a required step in the ERISA process, but what is it exactly? Mediation is somewhat similar to arbitration that you hear about in many services that you sign up for on a regular basis. The key difference is that at a mediation, a mediator speaks to both sides and helps them try to understand each other’s point of view or come to an amicable resolution, whereas an arbitrator will hear both sides and make a ruling. For the purposes of this article, we will explain mediation from the standpoint of how it works with regards to our practice area.
So what happens at a mediation?
At the beginning of the mediation, all parties will meet in one room. You and your attorney will be considered one party, the insurance company representative and the defense counsel are the other party, and a mediator is a licensed attorney who goes between the parties. Introductions will be held by the mediator as well as counsel from both sides, and afterwards, the parties go to separate rooms. The mediator goes back and forth between the parties to hear sides and present opposing views to each party. Post-COVID, we have been seeing a lot of mediations occur via zoom meetings. This has been especially helpful for our disabled clients who don’t have to travel to or attend the mediation in person and can attend from the comfort of their own home.
What happens at the end of a mediation?
A lot of mediations result in a settlement if an amicable solution can be had. The benefit of a settlement in a mediation is knowing that you will receive a settlement award and you will know exactly how much you will receive, along with knowing the process with the disability insurance company will be concluded. However, sometimes a proposed offer does not meet the expectations of the client and the attorney, so no resolution occurs, meaning the lawsuit continues on to the next step towards a hearing.
Do I have to settle at mediation?
No! As explained, if any proposed offer is not fair or reasonable, your attorney can advise you on whether they would proceed with litigation or what your possible steps are. You are under no obligation to settle at mediation.
Do I have to attend mediation?
Yes, mediation is a required step in the ERISA disability process, and you are required to attend. However, your attorney will handle the speaking and representation of your side of arguments during a mediation. You don’t need to speak to the other side and you will have privacy with your attorney after splitting up in to your individual rooms. Also, as mentioned, a lot of mediations are being held via zoom right now, so while you have to “attend”, it is from your home.
If you have a denial from a disability insurance company that you can appeal, or even a final denial, call our office to see if we can help you with the process. To learn more about the ERISA process or what our firm has to offer, check out some of our other BLOG articles or learn more about us on our Why Choose Us page.