The Workers' Compensation Commission is authorized and directed to promulgate appropriate rules and regulations to establish and implement, for claims with respect to injuries occurring on or after January 1, 1987, a preliminary conference procedure designed to accomplish the following objectives:
(1) To provide the claimant an opportunity to confer with a legal advisor on the staff of the commission to be advised of his or her rights under this chapter and to ensure that the rights are protected. The conference shall be held in the county where the accident occurred, if the accident occurred in this state, unless otherwise agreed to between the parties, or otherwise directed by the commission;
(2) To provide an opportunity for, but not to compel, a binding settlement of some or all the issues present at the time;
(3) To facilitate the resolution of issues without the expense of litigation or attorney's fees for either party;
(4)(A)(i) To authorize the legal advisor to approve compromise settlements entered into at or as a result of the preliminary conference and those joint petition settlements entered into pursuant to § 11-9-805 .
(ii) Provided, however, the same legal advisors shall not both advise the claimant and approve the joint petition.
(B) The purpose and intent of this section is to affirm the duty of the commission to provide legal assistance, thereby reducing litigation and workers' compensation costs; and
(5) No moneys appropriated by Act 1046 of 1987 or any other act shall be expended to fund preliminary conferences held pursuant to § 11-9-102 , § 11-9-205 , §§ 11-9-501 -- 11-9-503 , § 11-9-517 , § 11-9-521 , § 11-9-522 , § 11-9-527 , §§ 11-9-701 -- 11-9-704 , § 11-9-715 , § 11-9-802 , or § 11-9-804 , other than in the county where the accident occurred, if the accident occurred in this state, the county of the claimant's residence, or such other county as agreed to by the parties.
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