When facing mediation for a car accident claim, you want to make sure you have an experienced trial attorney on your side during the process. Mediation is a form of dispute resolution that can be used to settle a car accident claim. Sometimes this process is ordered by the court and, if an agreement is reached during mediation, the parties avoid going to trial. However, it is important that your attorney treat mediation as he would a trial as doing so can ensure a successful outcome for you. If your attorney is unprepared or does not take the mediation process seriously, your claim could be jeopardized.
Top 10 Mistakes Made by Attorneys in Mediation
In mediation, the two disputing parties meet with a trained mediator to try to reach a settlement that is agreeable to both parties. Similar to a trial, the plaintiff’s attorney will present his or her side of the case first and the defendant, or the defendant’s insurance company representative, will present his or her side. The job of the mediator is to facilitate the discussion. The mediator has no power to compel either party to do anything, but he will do his best to get the sides to reach an agreement. You want an attorney who will not give in to pressure from the other side and will stand firm in your demands for a recovery. Mistakes attorneys often make in mediation include:
- Settling too quickly. Making it clear that you are willing to take a case to court is a powerful tool for an attorney. If an attorney is known to be someone who settles quickly, he will not have a strong bargaining position to get you the settlement you deserve.
- Making an aggressive opening statement. Your attorney’s first statements in mediation should portray a willingness to reach an agreement, not set a tone of aggression and inflexibility. No matter how convincing your evidence is, you do not want to come off aggressively.
- Meeting without all parties present. There are often parties who should be present at mediation who are not formally named in a lawsuit. An experienced attorney will make sure all liability insurers or guarantors are present if necessary so that a decision can be reached as efficiently as possible.
- Mediating with the wrong people. Your attorney should make sure that the representatives who are asked to attend mediation have the authority to make a decision regarding a settlement. Often, an agreement is reached following a long process and then it is discovered that the offer must be presented to a higher authority within the insurance company or corporation for approval.
- Mediating too early or too late in the case. You do not want to enter into mediation before having time to adequately prepare, but you also don’t want to wait until you are about to go to trial. An experienced attorney will know when it is the right time to begin mediation.
- Rushing the proceedings. Mediation can be a long, arduous process. Your attorney should set aside time so that he is available for the entire proceeding, no matter how long it takes. If a mediation is rushed by your attorney, it is unlikely you will reach a settlement you are happy with.
- Failing to prepare the case. Before going to mediation, your attorney should have thoroughly investigated your case and should have all the evidence he needs to support your claim. If he is not adequately prepared, you could end up getting a lower offer than you should.
- Failing to prepare the client. Your attorney should take the time to explain exactly what will happen in mediation and to make sure you understand how to answer the questions that will be asked. He should prepare you for possible pitfalls and give you an honest assessment of what a fair offer will be.
- Revealing his “bottom line.” Your attorney should not reveal your minimum acceptable dollar amount even in confidence to the mediator. You want your attorney to present an attitude of willingness and flexibility and setting a bottom line does not accomplish that.
- Misunderstanding the status of a pending settlement. Not all settlements reached in mediation are binding and it is up to your attorney to pin down the exact status of your agreement. If the decision is non-binding, there will be additional steps to take to finalize the agreement.
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