Underground Utility Damage Cost Mediation Process Guidelines
For more than 20 years, damage prevention stakeholders in Virginia have worked tirelessly to reduce damage to underground utility lines. Their efforts have resulted in one of the most effective damage prevention programs in the country. The desire and partnership of these stakeholders to work together and resolve issues of common interest continues to be one of the cornerstones of this program.
The recovery of utility damage cost has been an issue of some controversy and has threatened to harm the partnership Virginia stakeholders have worked so hard to establish. Mediation can help contractors and utilities in Virginia reach resolution on disputed utility damage cost claims without expensive, frustrating, and time-consuming adjudication through the courts. A mediation process facilitated by a neutral person affords parties who understand their dispute better than anyone to reach a “win-win” resolution as opposed to issues being resolved by a judge or jury. This saves time and money and preserves the parties’ relationship by improving communication. Better relationships amongst contractors and utilities will continue to strengthen the partnership in Virginia’s damage prevention program.
2. Mediation Request
A. When a utility damage cost is disputed by the contractor involved, either party may request, in writing, to the other party, a mediation to reach resolution. The other party will respond to this request no later than 30 days from the date of the request.
B. The mediation should be completed within 60 days from the date parties agree to the mediation process, unless a longer time is agreed upon by the parties and the mediator.
3. Mediator Certification, Training and Experience:
- Certification: Mediators must meet the basic criteria established by the Office of the Executive Secretary of the Supreme Court of Virginia for the level of General District Court. Thiscertification requires at least 20 hours of basic mediation training, a 4-hour course on Virginia’s Judicial System, two mediation observations and three co-mediations with a certified Mentor.
- Training: Mediators can receive training on Virginia’s damage prevention program facilitated by representatives of the State Corporation Commission Staff, utility operators, excavators and VA811. Additional training may be required as changes to the law, policy, or regulations associated with the Virginia Underground Damage Prevention Act occur.
- Experience: Mediators with subject matter expertise in construction/utilities/building-contractor matters may be given preference.
4. Mediation Location
Ideally, mediation should take place in a safe, neutral and accessible location. The mediator may have office space for this purpose. Parties may agree to meet in one of their offices. State agencies may be able to offer a space for this purpose.
5. Mediation Fees and Mediator Travel Expenses:
- Mediation Fees: Services rendered by mediators will be incurred on a per case basis, regardless of how many sessions are required. Fees will be divided equally between the parties agreeing to the mediation service. The cost will be incurred regardless of the outcome of the case.
(1) For disputes up to $20,000.00, there will be a charge of $200.00 per case.
(2) For disputes greater than $20,000.00, there will be a charge of $300.00 per case.
(3) The parties may agree to a different fee than those detailed here, if appropriate.
- Mediator Travel Expenses:
(1) If a mediator is required to travel for the convenience of the parties requesting mediation service, reimbursement for the cost incurred by the mediator will be divided equally between the parties requesting the service.
(2) Current Virginia State Travel Regulations may be used as a guide in establishing the maximum travel cost incurred by the mediator.