By Judge Brian Addington, Gray
No, I’m not Lionel Richie. Just your local workers’ compensation judge.
I used to see many of you often, when we had settlements in person, but we’ve had telephone settlements for over a year now. Which leads to me wonder why we still have problems connecting on the phone.
Here are a set of reasons I see this happening.
- Parties have the wrong number. This happens way too often, but as humans, we make mistakes. Trust me; I can transpose a number with the best of them.
However, all of the judges have at least two different numbers that can be called to attend a settlement conference. These numbers are supplied to the attorney who schedules the settlement hearing and should be shared with all parties. Make sure you’re dialing the right number.
- Parties have the wrong time. We live in a big state that has two time zones. Sometimes people call from both zones for the same settlement hearing.
Please pay attention to the time zone in which the hearing is set and call at the correct time.
- The phone lines aren’t working. This has happened more than once. Sometimes it affects all calls, and other times certain providers.
If you get a message that both phone lines aren’t working, please stand by with your phone. Court staff or the attorney who scheduled the settlement will contact you with a new number or let you know that the settlement has been rescheduled.
- Parties get busy doing other things. This occurs often. The judge and one of the parties are waiting on the line for the other party to call. The usual explanation is that they were doing something else, and time got away from them.
This is understandable, but keep in mind that the Court is mostly on a strict schedule and can’t wait for someone to call late. And remember, this is Court, not someone trying to sell you an extended warranty. Please do your best to be ready when the time comes to call. Consider setting the alarm on your phone.
- The judge is running late due to a hearing or call, or there was an error in placing the correct time on the judge’s calendar.
When this happens, Court staff will contact the parties to explain the delay and set another time for the settlement. If the judge never calls, or you don’t hear from staff to explain the situation, please call the Court.
This isn’t a complete list, but the five biggest obstacles that I encounter. (I won’t go into other circumstances that hinder settlement hearings, like barking dogs, storms, loud cursing arguments, toilet flushes, crowing roosters, windshield wipers wiping, etc. I’ll save that for another blog.)
It can’t hurt for you and your staff to take another look at the settlement protocols, available here. Take note of phone numbers for the judge(s) you call on a regular basis. You should also familiarize yourself with the Court staff who schedule these settlements, so you’ll know whom to contact if something goes wrong.
I’ll end by thanking those who regularly appear on time and appreciate the formal nature of the process. That takes some effort. Your diligence and cooperation are greatly appreciated.