2014 Oklahoma Statutes
Title 85A. Administrative Workers' Compensation System
§85A-110. Alternative dispute resolution program.

85A OK Stat § 85A-110 (2014) What's This?

A. The Workers' Compensation Commission shall develop an alternative dispute resolution program which affords an injured employee the opportunity to obtain benefits by request or informal procedure. The program shall include an increased emphasis on making mediation and other alternative dispute resolution programs affordable and convenient to an injured employee not represented by counsel.

B. Participation in an alternative dispute resolution program is not a prerequisite to the commencement of a claim for benefits under this act. A request for alternative dispute resolution or a consent to participate in such program does not invoke the jurisdiction of the Commission.

C. Mediation shall be voluntary, informal, and nonbinding in any claim arising pursuant to the provisions of this act, except for claims against the Multiple Injury Trust Fund and medical treatment issues subject to a certified workplace medical plan. Provided, however, the parties may waive mediation and proceed directly to an administrative hearing.

D. A Commission mediator, appointed by the Commission, shall conduct an informal mediation between the parties in regard to claims for a closed period of lost time where the employee has returned to work, for medical benefits only, for reimbursement of travel expenses and medical treatment, in cases in which the employee is not represented by an attorney, or there is no record of insurance coverage. Such mediation shall be conducted by the Commission mediator within thirty (30) days of the filing of a request for any such benefit.

E. Upon the filing of a request for an administrative hearing on issues not specifically listed in subsection D of this section, the Commission shall set the case for prehearing before the assigned judge within fifteen (15) days. At the prehearing, the administrative law judge shall accept a waiver of mediation by the parties or appoint a mediator and issue an order reflecting such appointment. The mediator shall contact the parties and schedule a mediation session within thirty (30) days of such order, unless otherwise agreed to by the parties.

F. Mediation is confidential and no part of the proceeding shall be considered a matter of public record. Recommendations of the mediator are not binding unless the parties enter into a settlement agreement. If an agreement is not reached, the results and statements made during the mediation are not admissible in any following proceeding.

G. The Commission shall be responsible for certifying those persons who are eligible and qualified to serve as mediators. An individual may be certified as a mediator if the applicant meets the qualifications as required by the Commission. A certified mediator may be an attorney or nonattorney who has worked in the area of Oklahoma workers’ compensation benefits for at least five (5) years. Mediators serving as Commission-certified mediators on the effective date of this section shall serve the remainder of their respective five-year certification periods and may reapply for successive certification periods.

H. Each certified mediator shall remain on the list for five (5) years, unless removed. Mediators shall be required to complete at least six (6) hours of continuing education per two-year period in the areas of mediation and workers' compensation. Proof of compliance with this requirement shall be submitted to the Commission. This continuing education requirement shall be in addition to any other such general requirement which may be required by the Oklahoma State Bar Association. Cost of continuing education is to be borne by the applicant.

I. Mediators shall be compensated at the rate or fee as determined by the mediator; provided, however, the rate or fee shall not exceed a maximum rate to be established by the Commission by rule. The cost of mediation shall be paid by the respondent or its insurance carrier. A mediator must schedule mediations for a minimum two-hour block of time, and may not schedule more than one mediation to take place at a time.

J. At the time of a mediation, the claimant shall be in attendance unless all parties agree, and all parties shall be represented during the entire mediation session by a person with full settlement authority to settle any issue of the claim. If a party does not have full settlement authority, or does not participate in good faith in the mediation process, the mediator shall report to the assigned administrative law judge of the Commission who may for good cause shown assess costs, attorney fees, and sanctions.

K. To encourage early resolution of claims, an injured employee may participate in mediation without counsel. Upon compromise settlement of the claim, the parties may submit the settlement agreement to any administrative law judge for final approval.

Added by Laws 2013, c. 208, § 153, eff. Feb. 1, 2014.

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