People are often hesitant to pursue valid personal injury claims because they are worried about the toll litigation will take on their lives and wallets. Litigation can be expensive, time-consuming, and often leaves parties feeling like the only people who “won” are the attorneys.
In order to increase access to fair and efficient dispute resolutions, courts across the country have created mediation settlement programs. These programs allow parties in a dispute to hold a conversation hosted by a neutral third-party in order to reach a settlement that is agreeable to all sides.
Once both parties agree to participate in mediation, they must choose a mediator. Mediators are generally attorneys or former judges who are trained both in the area of law covering the dispute and also in mediation.
Both parties will provide a submission to the mediator outlining their version of the facts as well as their positions. This educates the mediator on where the parties stand prior to the mediation itself.
During mediation, the parties will gather in a conference room in a neutral side. Attorneys for both sides will have the opportunity to speak in favor of their case, then the parties will be placed into separate rooms. The mediator will speak with each party privately, asking what their version of a successful resolution would be and then presenting the offer to the other party.
In a personal injury case, this type of settlement often revolves around what amount of money the plaintiff can accept as appropriate compensation and what amount of money the defendant is willing to pay to resolve the matter. The mediator may spend some time carrying numbers back and forth, until the parties have reached an agreement.
Once an agreement is in place, the parties will then enter into a formal settlement contract, outlining the payment schedule and any other terms the parties reached in mediation.
If the parties are unable to successfully reach an agreement, information disclosed during mediation cannot be used in further litigation.
Pros and Cons of Mediation
Like all conflict resolution mechanisms, there are both pros and cons to mediation settlement conferences. It is the right solution for some parties, but
Advantages of Mediation
First, mediation often allows for quicker resolution of disputes in personal injury disputes. Because mediation involves private actors, rather than public courts, the parties are able to set schedules when they are available to meet and do not have to worry about crowded judicial dockets or court calendars.
Additionally, mediation is voluntary – the majority of the time, both sides participate in the proceedings because they are actively seeking a speedy resolution. This means that, generally, everyone is looking for a speedy resolution they can all live with.
Finally, mediation is also significantly cheaper than litigation. Although attorneys need to spend time preparing for mediation, there is not a prolonged discovery period, which tends to raise the cost of litigation, and neither side is interested in delaying a ruling indefinitely, which also raises the cost associated with litigation.
Disadvantages of Mediation
Despite the plethora of benefits, mediation can also present some downsides. If one side is not actively interested in seeking a resolution through mediation, the process can be abused, creating greater delay and animosity, as well as driving up the cost of the dispute. Because there is no formal evidence collection procedure, key facts that could change the outcome of the dispute may remain hidden.
Additionally, an inexperienced or unskilled mediator may make mistakes, allow one party to unfairly dominate the settlement negotiations or put pressure on one side to accept an unfair agreement. Unlike in court, a party that comes out of mediation feeling dissatisfied with the result has less opportunity to appeal or seek a better resolution.
Finally, mediation can be stressful for someone who has gone through a serious injury or loss. While personal injury cases typically involve an exchange of money as a resolution, it can be difficult for an accident victim to hear their life and injury discussed in terms of decreasing numbers throughout the course of the mediation process.
Speak with an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney Today
Mediation is one tool available to attempt a resolution of your personal injury lawsuit. For many people, this is the right answer that allows them to be vindicated after suffering a loss or injury and still move on with their lives.
Our attorneys at the Law Offices of Freeman & Freeman have counseled hundreds of people in the Santa Rosa area for more than 50 years about their options for quick and cost-efficient dispute resolution. If you are interested in learning whether mediation is the right answer for you, please contact us at (866) 361-7546 to set up an initial consultation.