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Why An Injured Worker Is Like Aaron Burr

Hamilton, the ground-breaking musical about colonial forefathers, is finally coming to Los Angeles in August. But maybe you’ve been experiencing a version of that story. Like Aaron Burr, injured workers want to be in the room where it happens [sorry if you encounter an ad at this link]. Instead, they are frequently shut out of discussions and proceedings about their claim.
 
Ignorance breeds resentment
Go to any WCAB location and you will see a waiting room full of injured workers. Many more injured workers with claims on the calendar are not in attendance. Settlement discussions may occur in courtrooms, cafeterias and even hallways. Injured workers are usually not included in these discussions.

No injured worker should waste time traveling to a Board when nothing will happen. On the other hand, injured workers want to sit in on their attorney’s negotiations. If the injured worker is already at the Board, shutting out that person can foster mistrust.

The Best Place for Settlement Discussions
Mediation provides a forum for the injured worker to listen and participate. Including the injured worker conveys respect and can avoid a problem later.

Likewise, the presence of a representative from the employer’s side shows a seriousness of purpose. That representative will get a better picture of the negotiation by being in the room where it happens.

Regardless of which side an attorney represents, counsel will want to prepare the client for mediation. That includes a preview of how mediation works. Counsel may want to coach clients to be temperate in their comments. In joint session or when the mediator is present, client or counsel can ask for time for a private discussion with each other at any point.
Multiple Rooms
Typically there are at least two rooms where it happens, because each side is in its own caucus. As mediator, I shuttle between the rooms to speak with lawyers and their clients. Sometimes I speak only with the attorneys (often in the hall), and attorneys can request to speak privately with the mediator or with the mediator and opposing counsel. When counsel returns to caucus, the client can provide immediate feedback—assuming the client is in the room where it happens.