Most people think of divorce settlements when they hear the term “mediation” but professional mediators also play a significant role in resolving many personal injury claims. Mediation is growing in popularity as a way to resolve disputes or at least to gain a better understanding of the terms sought by the other side and the details of their side of the case.
If you’ve been injured in California, and you’re seeking an ample settlement in the hopes of avoiding a court battle, mediation may be a powerful tool to move forward toward the settlement you’re looking for.
Mediation is a type of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) with a structured process for both sides of the legal dispute—like the victim of a slip-and-fall accident, their attorney, and the owner of the business where the fall occurred along with the attorney appointed by their insurance company.
Mediation helps both parties avoid the risks and expenses of a time-consuming trial. In mediation, each side agrees to a date, time, and location to meet with a neutral third party—a professional mediator. Mediators are often former trial attorneys and judges who have a deep understanding of the process.
In many cases, a judge orders the mediation process to attempt to resolve disputes without a trial, but at other times mediation is a voluntary step agreed to by both sides. During mediation, the injury victim’s attorney may present evidence such as photos, medical reports, and eyewitness depositions so the defendant and their insurer know what a jury will view should the case go to trial. The defendant’s attorney also presents their case. Most injury victims’ attorneys advise their clients to avoid showing any emotion during this process.
After both sides present their cases, they separate into different rooms and a mediator goes back and forth discussing terms, settlement offers, and the strengths and weaknesses of each case to promote a compromise. Negotiations continue until they reach an agreement or choose to go to trial.
Even when mediation is unsuccessful in determining a settlement, it helps the injury victim and their lawyer to know the defendant’s attorneys plan to focus on during the trial so they can craft a compelling case.
One of the benefits of mediation is the ability to discuss or admit facts that either side wishes to avoid in court. Before beginning the mediation process, all participants identify themselves, explain their role in the case, and then sign a confidentiality form. Both sides are free to say things that cannot be used against them should the case go to trial. For example, during mediation, the defendant in a car accident case may admit that they were distracted when an accident occurred while in trial they would fight fault. If a trial still takes place, neither side can present to the jury anything said at mediation, including financial amounts that either side suggested they’d agree to during mediation.
Mediation ends in a settlement in approximately 50% of cases, including many large settlements for injury victims. In complex cases, one or both sides may request further mediation attempts before the trial date. Even when mediation fails, both sides gain valuable information and insights that are useful to prepare for trial. If mediation proves unsuitable for resolving your case, reaching out to an Encino personal injury lawyer becomes a prudent step to explore alternative legal avenues and advocate for your rights in pursuit of a fair resolution.