|Post by Suzy Boulware Cole|
In 2004, the first bill proposing mandatory mediation in workers’ compensation cases in South Carolina was introduced and defeated. Since then, the topic has been bandied about in legal circles, and more and more workers’ compensation lawyers have become approved mediators.
In 2007, the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission hired former Commissioner Ginger Crocker to implement an expanded mediation program. This proved what we already knew—the Commission strongly supports mediation as a way to resolve claims.
Our sister state of North Carolina adopted mandatory mediation in 1995. While it is termed “mandatory,” parties may ask for an exemption in cases they believe are not suitable for mediation. The statistics have steadily shown almost 75% of all mediations end in settlement. Mediation has also successfully sped up dockets. Florida was the first state to require mediation. In the first six months, mandatory mediation reduced the two-year judicial backlog to just six months, and within a year, a case could be heard within 90 days.
In South Carolina, we already have a fast-paced docket, aptly dubbed the “rocket docket.” So, do we need mandatory mediation? Stan Lacy and Jack Griffeth, who are both certified mediators, say yes with some caveats. Both agree mediation is especially fruitful in cases involving third-party lawsuits and any complex cases or cases with multiple parties.
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