With the cost of personal injury cases rising, attorneys, clients, and courts are considering mediation as a viable alternative to trial or arbitration. Mediation allows for parties to meet in a more formal atmosphere to settle their claim. This can be very advantageous because it is apparent that both sides see the upside in trying to settle the claim. Also, a formal time set aside to settle will make both sides work harder to come up with a settlement in the time allotted. Note that there may be compromises on both sides so it is best for each party to be flexible.
Mediation will be scheduled at a mutually agreed upon time and place, typically at the location of the mediator. A mediator is typically a retired judge or attorney who has no connection to either side in the case. This process is not like going to trial or an arbitration hearing. The mediator is simply there to ensure that the negotiation process moves along and is efficient during the time allotted.
Before a mediation meeting your attorney will want to meet with you. At this point your attorney can speak with you about the positives and negatives of your case and you can come up with a settlement range where you would be comfortable having your attorney accept a settlement. At this time you and your attorney should take a final calculation of all fees and costs incurred.
At the mediation the attorneys, the parties, and any insurers may be present. Be prepared for everyone to show, but usually those with final decision-making authority will be there. Starting out, the mediation will have everyone in the same room but later meetings have the parties in different rooms with the mediator also in a separate space and the attorneys go back and forth during discussions and contact the mediator when there is a disagreement. The attorneys will have time to outline the case and issues and to appeal for a more favorable settlement for their client. Be prepared for the mediation to last all day, and it may take several days depending on the complexity of the case and the money involved.
When the parties are able to agree a settlement agreement will be drafted, which the parties will sign. If they are unable to agree the case will proceed with the expectation of trial as it had before.
This article is for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice. Your case may be different. Hiring an attorney immediately will protect your rights. Consult an attorney in your area for further guidance.