What is Mediation?
A mediation is a settlement conference, presided over by a “mediator”—a neutral third-party, specially trained in conflict resolution. The goal of mediation is to resolve your personal injury claim without the need for a trial.
How Does Mediation Work?
Although the process may vary slightly, depending on the mediator’s personal rules or preferences, mediation generally works as follows: The parties and their attorneys gather at the mediator’s office. An insurance company representative also will be present or, at the very least, available by phone. The lawyers will make opening statements. Following these initial presentations, the parties and their lawyers will go to separate rooms. For the remainder of the mediation, the mediator will shuttle back and forth between the two rooms, passing along offers and demands, and trying to negotiate a middle ground.
What Are the Benefits of Mediation?
Mediation costs less—in dollars and in time—than does a trial. Plus, with mediation, you retain control over the outcome of your case; your fate is not left in the hands of a judge or jury. This control allows room for flexibility, perhaps even creativity, in the final settlement terms. Moreover, mediation is confidential; the proceedings are not open to the public and do not become a matter of public record, as is the case with trial proceedings. Nothing that is said or revealed in mediation can be used against you later at a trial.
What Are the Drawbacks to Mediation?
In general, there are few drawbacks to mediation. You may learn that your case isn’t worth what you thought it was (at least in the mediator’s eyes), but it is better to get this impression from a mediator than from a jury. You may not be able to reach a settlement, in which case you have lost the time, effort, and money you put into the mediation, but no more than that. Your lawyer can continue informal settlement negotiations, and your case can proceed, undeterred, through litigation and trial.
Is Mediation a Good Option for My Case?
In most cases, the answer is yes. The timing of the mediation is important, though. Mediation is most likely to be successful when both sides have completed, or almost completed, their investigations, and the case is ripe for settlement. In any event, it is always good idea to discuss this option with your personal injury attorney.