Have a mediation coming up? There are certain claims with a mediation scheduled where vocational rehabilitation can be of assistance in resolution, but timing is critical.
In my 35 years providing vocational services within the workers’ compensation industry, for the most part, I have observed four consistent tendencies:
1. Generally, if an injured worker wanted to work, he/she would have found their own job long before my involvement.
2. When you do nothing long enough, you do become good at doing nothing.
3. Once settled into a lifestyle, disruption from that lifestyle is an inconvenience.
4. Because injured workers have been out of work for so long, they generally don’t like structure and obligations.
Experience has shown, when mediation is scheduled, assignment of that file for vocational rehabilitation has been advantageous to resolution and, with that said, assignment can be made in two ways:
- Limited assignment for a vocational evaluation/assessment, where the rehabilitation professional is only conducting a one-time evaluation/assessment whereby the injured worker is interviewed, vocational placement process explained, and, report written with appropriate available jobs listed.
- Full vocational services, including the initial meeting and evaluation, followed by several subsequent meetings where the job placement process is initiated.
Until a rehabilitation professional is assigned, plaintiff attorneys typically do not even discuss vocational case management with their client. However, once assigned, plaintiff’s counsel and the injured worker know, to borrow the line from their commercials, “You. Mean. Business.”.
In closing, allow me to make several suggestions. First, if you only desire a limited assignment, make the assignment well in advance of 20 calendar days prior to the mediation. Once the assignment is made and plaintiff’s attorney notified, plaintiff attorney has 20 calendar days to schedule the initial meeting in his/her office. Naturally, if a mediation is scheduled and the assignment is made under 20 calendar days, the initial meeting will never get scheduled. Second, if a full vocational placement assignment is requested, make sure at least three weeks beyond the 20-calendar day requirement is provided so the injured worker can experience the “full” vocational placement experience.