You have been injured in a car accident and you have already filed a personal injury lawsuit for those injuries. Or, perhaps you are considering filing a lawsuit and you just want to explore your options before going through the process.
Regardless of the situation, the thought of going to trial may be intimidating. After all, a full out trial comes with extensive costs and time.
Trials can significantly delay your personal injury claim and you just want to be compensated for your losses as soon as possible so you can get on with your life.
An alternative to going to court is going through mediation. This form of alternative dispute resolution can help determine a settlement that is fair for both parties.
Sometimes mediation is ordered by the courts, while other times you and the other party can opt for mediation to resolve the claim.
The Purpose of Mediation
Mediation involves a professionally trained mediator —such as a former judge or attorney—who helps you and the other party try to reach an agreeable settlement.
They are not there in the judge’s capacity, however, and they do not make decisions; instead, they help facilitate them. They may also make suggestions and recommendations, but they are not the final say in your negotiations.
Their goal is to bring both sides to the table to discuss and hopefully come to a settlement. You cannot force the other party to go to mediation nor can they force you. However, the courts can require it as part of your case.
Mediation is not the same as arbitration. In arbitration, the final decision is legally binding, while mediation is only binding if both parties sign a contract agreeing to the decisions.
What to Expect During Mediation
Mediation typically involves a preliminary discussion phase, which involves statements that will not be admissible in court.
This allows everyone to show evidence that would otherwise be excluded and even openly discuss factors of the case without any fear that something they say will be used against them later in the courts.
Both parties are typically required to sign a mediation agreement, stating that they agree to work out their settlement via mediation instead of taking the process to court.
After the preliminary discussion phase, you, the plaintiff, will be allowed to speak. This is where an attorney becomes handy. A car accident attorney can explain the view of the case and any proposed settlements you may have as well as their reasons for requesting such settlement.
The opposing party most likely will have attorneys or representatives present for mediation; therefore, having an attorney present who understands the process and can help protect your rights is important.
If you and the other party cannot be in the same room together, then the mediator may act as a go-between, discussing the case with you and then going back to the other side for discussions and further negotiations.
The mediator is there to help both parties see the other side of the case. They may discuss weaknesses they have found in your claim and may give you an idea of what you can expect in court if you took your case to trial.
Tips for a Successful Mediation
Mediation can be suggested before you file your case with the courts. If both sides agree, this may be an indication the other side is willing to settle.
To ensure more successful mediation experience, here are a few tips to consider:
1. Make sure there is a decision-maker present for the other side during mediation. There is no point in discussing a settlement with people that need to speak to a higher authority before making their decision.
2. Select a mediator that is specifically experienced in car accident settlements.
3. Remember the mediator cannot enforce an agreement or force you to sign an agreement. Agreements are mutual.
4. Mediation will cost money, but may be factored into the costs you have already worked out with your attorney.
We can review your case and help determine which dispute resolution method is best. Call now for a free consultation.
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