(a) Definitions. As used in this section, “participant” means an individual entitled or permitted to attend and take part in a benefit review conference. Participants include:
(1) the parties;
(2) the parties’ representatives;
(3) the employer exercising the right to present evidence relevant to the disputed issue or issues; and
(4) any other individual, at the discretion of the benefit review officer.
(b) Overview of the benefit review conference. The benefit review conference consists of three parts: opening, mediation, and closing.
(c) Opening. The benefit review officer shall:
(1) identify the case and introduce the parties and other participants;
(2) thoroughly inform the parties and participants of their rights and responsibilities under the Texas Workers’ Compensation Act;
(3) explain the purpose of the conference and the procedures and time frame to be observed;
(4) identify and describe the disputed issues to be mediated; and
(5) elicit each party’s statement of position regarding each disputed issue.
(d) Mediation. The benefit review officer shall:
(1) ask and answer questions of the parties and other participants;
(2) encourage the parties to discuss the disputed issues and ask and answer questions;
(3) permit the employer to present evidence relevant to the disputed issues;
(4) permit other participants to discuss the disputed issues and ask and answer questions, to the extent the benefit review officer deems appropriate;
(5) if necessary, caucus individually with each party;
(6) assist the parties to agree on specific options for resolution; and
(7) assist the parties in resolving disputed issues by agreement or settlement.
(e) Closing. The benefit review officer shall:
(1) assist the parties in reducing agreements or settlements to writing;
(2) identify any issues left unresolved; and
(3) if available information pertinent to the resolution of the disputed issue(s) was not produced at the benefit review conference, require a second benefit review conference to be scheduled if a second one has not already been conducted.
The provisions of this § 141.5 adopted to be effective June 7, 1991, 16 TexReg 2876; amended to be effective September 4, 2006, 31 TexReg 7127.