While people hear about lawsuits ending up in court, most personal injury cases are settled long before the trial date. Many of these cases are settled in mediation, which is much faster and cheaper than taking your case to trial. Though many people have heard the word “mediation,” they have little to no idea of what this process entails. This is understandable, as most people’s first experience with the law is when they are injured in an accident. At that point, your primary interest is settling your case and receiving payment as fast as possible.
Mediation is a process that can help both sides of a lawsuit come to an agreement with help from a neutral third party. This person is known as a certified mediator, and their purpose is to be a bridge between the two parties so that they can resolve their differences and reach an acceptable agreement. The mediator can be chosen by the involved parties or appointed by the court if they cannot agree on a mediator.
While most personal injury lawsuits are settled in this matter, it’s important to remember that mediation is a voluntary method. Sometimes, a settlement can be reached in the first meeting, but meetings can also be held over a series of days or weeks. If you are unable to reach a settlement through mediation, it’s likely that your case will be taken to court.
Today, we will discuss the steps that are involved when you are attempting to settle your case through mediation. If you have further questions about the mediation process or need advice on a pending accident injury claim, don’t hesitate to contact us.
Preparing for Mediation – What Happens Before the Meeting
As with any important event in your life, preparation is the key to a successful mediation. Once a meeting is scheduled between both sides, there are various issues you will need to discuss with your attorney. Primarily, you must establish a baseline, i.e., the lowest amount you are willing to settle for. Keep in mind that you will need to account for legal fees if your lawyer is working on contingency, which is generally the case with personal injury attorneys. However, it’s important to be reasonable about the amount you’re asking for, as being stubborn or greedy will not be helpful in reaching a compromise with the other side.
Who will Attend the Meeting?
Mediation is typically attended by the following individuals: the plaintiff (injured party), the plaintiff’s lawyer, the defendant’s lawyer, the insurance adjuster (from the defendant’s insurance company), and the certified mediator. The defendant usually does not attend these meetings, because it’s ultimately the insurance company that pays the victim. Thus, it’s up to them as to how much they will settle for.
Of course, the defendant can choose to be present, though it’s not recommended as a general rule. For one thing, the defendant is emotionally invested in the case, and as a result, they may become a disruptive presence during the meeting.
As for the mediator, they are a neutral third party with no loyalty to either side. Their goal is to facilitate open and constructive dialogue between the two sides and try to bring closure to a lawsuit before it goes to trial. The mediator cannot provide legal advice, as their job is to remain impartial and let the parties make decisions on their own.
What Happens at the Mediation Meeting?
The meeting will start by having everyone in a joint session, so that the mediator can make their opening statement and explain the basic procedures to both sides. This is followed by statements from the attorneys, which gives them a chance to argue their case.
Once everyone has explained their position, the parties are placed in separate rooms. They will remain in their respective rooms for the rest of the mediation, while the mediator goes back and forth between the parties. This way, information from one side is clearly communicated to the other without any disruptions.
Hopefully, the parties will reach a compromise and sign off on a settlement agreement. Aside from the amount that will be paid, the document will contain a release of liability. This means that the plaintiff forfeits their right to sue the defendant in lieu of receiving a settlement. Payments are usually made by the defendant within 30 days, allowing both sides to put the incident behind them once and for all.
If, on the other hand, both sides cannot come to an agreement, the plaintiff will need to discuss the available legal options with their attorney.
Is Mediation Worth It?
Overall, we would say that mediation is beneficial to claimants who are looking to avoid the expense of taking their case to court. One benefit that stands out right away is that everything said in mediation by both parties is confidential. That means your words cannot be used against you in court if you decide to take your case to trial.
On the other hand, what you say during mediation may prompt the other side to look for new clues or evidence that can support their case. There’s no guarantee that the courts will allow them to use this new-found evidence, but nevertheless, you want to be very careful about what you say during these meetings. That’s why it’s best to have a skilled lawyer by your side, who is familiar with the ins and outs of the mediation process.
Always remember that the purpose of mediating a case is to reach a compromise. You should not go into the process with the idea that you will get exactly what you want. Some clients are eager to take their chances in court, as you will likely receive more from a jury if you win your case. But that’s still a big gamble, and going to trial is an incredibly time-consuming, expensive process, even if the jury rules in your favor. In mediation, you at least have some control over the outcome of the meeting, whereas you would have no control over your case during a trial.
Free Second Opinion
Some of you reading this article are about to participate in mediation, while others have already gone through the process. Perhaps it was unsuccessful, and you are afraid as to what will happen to your case at this point. Maybe you blame your lawyer for things not working out, and the thought of finding new legal counsel has crossed your mind. We can help you with these and many other issues during a second opinion consultation. There is no charge for this consultation, so don’t hesitate to call and schedule a free second opinion.
Contact DTLA Law Group
Every decision you make is crucial when it comes to a personal injury case. But knowing what to do is challenging when you have limited knowledge of the legal system. An experienced personal injury lawyer can help you understand your rights and ensure that you are not taken advantage of during the mediation process.
We are a contingency-based law firm, so there is no upfront cost if you hire us to represent you in a personal injury claim. All legal costs are deferred until you receive payment from the negligent party. Otherwise, we eat the costs and charge you $0 for the cost of our services.
For a free case evaluation from a lawyer with experience in personal injury mediation, contact the offices of DTLA Law Group.