Settlement conferences: The process and the benefits to you

Aug 29 2017

Settlement conferences are valuable and effective ways to resolve workers’ compensation cases. Two parties who struggle to find compromise have the opportunity to negotiate a compromise outside of the courtroom. Both sides can benefit from a middle ground that provides closure and allows injured workers to move on with their lives.

Simply stated, everyone involved has a say in the outcome of settlement talks. They can avoid the lengthy process that comes with a formal workers’ compensation hearing.

Specific information injured workers should know about settlement conferences include:

  • Workers’ compensation claims in Colorado can be settled at any step in the process
  • The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment offer settlement conferences where both sides can try to negotiate a settlement
  • Settlement conferences last two hours and presided over by a judge
  • Any party or their legal counsel can schedule a settlement conference
  • Parties appear in person, represented by their attorneys who negotiate on their behalf
  • Negotiations can take place even if a claim is denied in its entirety
  • The process of a settlement conference involves a complex analysis of the monetary value that takes into account all aspects of the claim
  • All discussions during the conference are confidential and cannot be used against the claimant in court
  • Injured workers do not lose their rights to a hearing if both sides fail to reach an agreement

If you have been injured at work and seeking an evaluation of your possible workers’ compensation settlement, contact Alverson + O’Brien, P.C.

When Is a Settlement Conference Used?

Generally, it is recommended to try a settlement conference in finding a resolution to a workers’ compensation matter before proceeding to the trial stage. The main objective of any settlement conference is to help two parties to amicably settle their disputes. Participation in a settlement conference is a voluntary matter which must be agreed to by both parties.

A settlement conference is almost always less costly and takes a shorter amount of time compared to going to a trial. The process is presided over by a court judge in a private room. Settlement conferences are ideal for settling workers’ compensation issues/matters of all kinds. 

How to Prepare for a Settlement Conference

Preparation is paramount to the success of any settlement conference. Be sure to talk with your lawyer before the actual settlement conference process to help you with necessary legal advice and what to expect. Additionally, you should be clear about what you want before the process begins. This is usually based on a variety of factors, including the type of settlement. Your lawyer is key in this stage as he or she will help you evaluate the case and will advise accordingly.

In addition, you should analyze the case. Weak cases might mean you will lose in a judge trial whereas a strong case could lead to a win. Remember to seek your lawyer’s opinion. 

As mentioned earlier, you should enter the conference with a clear goal of your walkaway point. Generally, your absolute minimum point will depend on the available evidence and advice of your attorney. 

How Does a Settlement Conference Work?

A settlement conference can vary between judges.  However, the parties involved must notify the judge about the lawsuit in advance. The evidence and facts provided during this time will help the judge prepare for the case before the settlement discussions.

The initial conference might begin with the settlement judge meeting the lawyers and the parties.  Following the initial conference, the settlement judge will meet the parties separately, a process that can take several hours. If the involved parties fail to settle their dispute, the judge can plan for another settlement conference or proceed for trial.

If the parties agree to settle, the lawyers will prepare a Settlement Agreement specifying the settlement terms. Then the parties will have to sign the formal Settlement Agreement, after which the judge dismisses the lawsuit.