Mediation is an informal process in which two parties that are in dispute meet with a neutral third party—known as a mediator—to help resolve the conflict. The process is usually cheaper and quicker than a full-blown trial, but it may not get you the result you're hoping for. When should you agree to mediation, and when is it not in your best interest?
Mediation can be used for many different types of conflicts, including neighborhood disputes, landlord/tenant disagreements, and consumer complaints. More often, it's also a preferred method for resolution of personal injury claims. In most cases, the parties involved in a car accident claim both have to agree to try to resolve their dispute through mediation. As a car accident victim, you can opt out of mediation if you don’t think your interests will be served.
However, in other cases, a judge will order that two parties attempt a resolution through mediation before the claim can go to trial. In court-ordered mediation, you won't be able to opt out. Car accident claims can be settled amicably through mediation, but the process is often used by insurance companies to discourage victims from seeking the full damages they deserve.
How Mediation Works
Whether mediation is voluntary or court-ordered, the two parties should have the freedom to choose their mediator and must agree on the choice. Mediators should be neutral third parties, so you wouldn't want to agree to an in-house mediator for an insurance company, for example.
Mediators are often attorneys or retired judges. They don't make decisions or give opinions. Their role is to facilitate a conversation between the two parties and help them come to an agreeable resolution. Both parties must agree to the settlement. If one party doesn't agree, the parties go back to where they were before mediation. Nothing that is said in mediation can be used by either party in future negotiations or in court.
In general, mediation for a personal injury claim proceeds as follows:
- A mediator is chosen and the parties agree to a time, place, and date.
- At the meeting, the mediator introduces all parties in attendance.
- Everyone is required to sign a confidentiality agreement.
- The attorney for the plaintiff presents information regarding the value of his case. This may include photographs of the crash scene, medical records, and other evidence. This opening statement gives everyone an idea of the strength of the plaintiff’s case and what would be heard at a trial.
- The attorney or insurance adjuster for the defense makes an argument as to why he or she should pay less than what's being requested by the plaintiff.
- Once opening statements have been made, the parties are separated into different rooms.
- The mediator goes back and forth between the parties, asking questions and relaying information. He or she should also point out weaknesses to each party and remind them of the risks involved in going to trial. A good mediator keeps both sides talking and does his or her best to help them reach a compromise.
- If a settlement is reached, the agreement is signed by both parties and filed with the court. The plaintiff is required to sign a release barring him from pursuing any further legal action.
- If a settlement cannot be reached, negotiations may continue between the plaintiff’s attorney and the insurance company, but if this is unsuccessful, the case goes to trial.
Do You Need an Attorney for Mediation?
Although mediation is an informal process, you should still have an attorney representing you as the victim of a car accident. The insurance company will send an experienced negotiator, and you don't want to take him on by yourself. Your attorney will prepare you for mediation and will speak on your behalf as much as possible.
To protect yourself from being cheated out of the compensation you deserve, speak with our experienced car accident attorneys before agreeing to mediation. We will help you make decisions that are in your best interest. Contact us online or call us directly at 888.348.2616 for your free, no obligation consultation.