April 1, 1999 Related Topics: Litigation and Dispute Resolution
Little research has been conducted on dispute resolution outcomes in workers’ compensation. However, WCRI’s research on dispute resolution programs in the civil courts and other venues provides insights that may be applicable to workers’ compensation. These studies also fill a gap in research and can guide policymakers looking to evaluate and improve their system’s workers’ compensation dispute resolution program.
These studies cover mediation, arbitration, and early neutral evaluation, the most common informal forums, as well as formal hearings. Our review of the literature found:
Mediation is the most promising form of informal dispute resolution. It appears to speed up the resolution of disputes, diverting cases from formal hearings, and most studies show participants are satisfied with the outcome. Although studies of civil cases are divided on the costs of mediation versus litigation, its potential for lower levels of attorney involvement makes mediation a cost-effective alternative to formal hearings.
Based on dispute resolution research in the civil courts, no compelling case can be made for the use of arbitration or early evaluation by a neutral in workers’ compensation.
Several case management techniques used in the civil courts might be effectively applied to workers’ compensation cases on the formal hearing track. Both early judicial management—in particular early scheduling of cases—and discovery management can shorten the time to disposition. When used together, these techniques can save as much as five months in longer-term cases.
The study also recommends five outcome measures as a starting point when evaluating dispute resolution programs: 1) disposition rate, 2) speed of resolution, 3) costs to participants, 4) administrative costs, and 5) participants’ satisfaction and perceptions of fairness.
Measuring Dispute Resolution Outcomes: A Literature Review with Implications for Workers’ Compensation. Duncan S. Ballantyne and Christopher J. Mazingo. April 1999. WC-99-1.
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