State News : North Carolina

NWCDN is a network of law firms dedicated to protecting employers in workers’ compensation claims.

NWCDN Members regularly post articles and summary judgements in workers’ compensations law in your state.  

Select a state from the dropdown menu below to scroll through the state specific archives for updates and opinions on various workers’ compensation laws in your state.

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North Carolina



Defense Counsel Perspective: Five Tips for Preparing for Mediation

It remains a popular preference for plaintiffs and plaintiffs’ attorneys to attend mediation virtually despite the default rule at the Commission being in-person mediations. From the defense counsel perspective, virtual mediations can prove more difficult than in-person mediations for several reasons. First, it is easier to engage in small talk before mediation when the parties are in-person, and that advantage can make plaintiff more comfortable with the process. Additionally, it is easier to read opposing counsel’s and plaintiff’s body language when attending mediation in-person. Whether mediations are in-person or virtual, they are an important step in the litigation process. When virtual mediation is the only choice, these five steps can help you prepare effectively:

1.      Over prepare.

We all know that preparation can be the difference between a successful mediation and an unsuccessful mediation. It is important to not only know the basic facts in a case, but also to create a story. Creating a story out of the facts means identifying the theme of the case, highlighting key facts and singling out the issues you are trying to resolve. If the defense is not familiar with the case facts and issues it inevitably upsets plaintiff and hampers the ability to resolve the case.

2.      Remain flexible.

Even though you can prepare as much as possible for mediation and have a strategy laid out, mediation involves other parties’ feelings which can change your strategy and the ultimate outcome of the mediation. When this happens, being flexible will help you move the case forward, even if it does not resolve through mediation.

3.      Be familiar with opposing counsel and the mediator.

Choosing the right mediator can be key to having a successful mediation, whether it is virtual or in-person. You want to agree to mediate with a mediator that is knowledgeable in your area of law, has experience, and has the negotiation style you are looking for. Being familiar with opposing counsel’s personality will help you select the right mediator, determine your mediation strategy, anticipate their responses and maintain composure during mediation. If you are not familiar with opposing counsel, try reaching out to your colleagues to determine their reputation and negotiation style in advance.

4.      Make eye contact as much as possible.

Many times, a plaintiff will come into mediation nervous or defensive. This is likely because they are unfamiliar with the mediation process or because they believe that opposing counsel is out to “get them.” Maintaining eye contact with plaintiff will help you display empathy and will give plaintiff the feeling of being heard. If the mediation is virtual, always explain to plaintiff that you will be taking notes during the mediation, so they do not assume you are distracted during the process.

5.      Apologize, if appropriate.

Not every case requires an apology. Obviously when you are dealing with a denied case where causation or credibility are at issue, an apology is not necessary. However, if you have an admitted case and plaintiff was seriously injured and cannot return to his or her pre-injury employment, an apology goes a long way to ease plaintiff’s tension and defensiveness. It also puts plaintiff in the right frame of mind to resolve his or her case. Often, the defense counsel’s apology is the first-time plaintiff has heard a representative of the employer acknowledge the severity of the injury and the lasting effects it may have on plaintiff.

While remaining focused on the objective facts of the case is imperative, defense counsel must keep in mind that subjective nuances, such as those outlined above, can make or break a successful outcome for mediation.