Many legal cases can be settled through mediation rather than going to court. It can be voluntary, but other times, it is mandatory. Mandatory mediations are not uncommon in personal injury cases. They must be completed for the judge to permit the case to head to trial court.
Using a neutral, third party to find ways to resolve the problems can be beneficial in many cases. Mediation is a shorter, less costly process designed to save participants time, money, and stress. The parties involved can be more directly involved with the resolution. It is important to keep in mind that while personal injury mediation may work effectively, sometimes, it does not.
When personal injury cases are sent to mediation, the personal injury lawyers and insurance defense lawyers work together to decide on a mediator. Mediators should be experienced with legal issues, and they are often retired judges or lawyers. They listen to both sides of the case, offer unbiased opinions, and aid the parties in reaching a resolution that is acceptable for everyone. Mediators may not provide their personal opinions or take sides.
Once the mediator is chosen, both sides agree on a location, date, and time for the mediation. Plaintiffs and defendants may be allowed to bring family members to the mediation if they wish. Mediations can be quick and only last for a few hours. Sometimes, they can take longer, with a few days of going back and forth until things are settled. People are not always willing to negotiate in personal injury cases, so the mediation process could get long.
Although every personal injury mediation is different, there are some common characteristics. Once everyone has arrived, the mediator identifies everyone there. Defendants do not always show up, although they may be required to do so.
After the introductions, the mediator will have everyone sign a confidentiality agreement. This protects everyone and allows them to share information that might not be talked about at an actual trial. This way, no one has to be concerned about revealing anything that the other side might be able to use against them in court.
The next phase consists of opening statements. The plaintiff’s lawyer usually begins, and they may utilize photographs, videos, charts, records, and other exhibits during this presentation. The main objective here is to allow the other lawyers, insurance adjusters, and the mediator understand how everything will appear to a jury if the defendant decides not to settle.
When the plaintiff’s lawyer is finished, the defense attorney has their turn. They may talk about why they think the settlement amount is appropriate and question the exhibits that the plaintiff’s lawyer provided. The defense lawyer may try to make the plaintiff feel as though going to court would be a bad idea. Opening statements can be quick or last for hours, depending on the circumstances. While this is going on, it is best for plaintiffs and defendants to pay attention and take notes.
Once the opening statements are finished, the opposing sides separate into two different rooms. The mediator is tasked with the responsibility of going back and forth and will share information from each side. During this process, the mediator will ask questions and learn more about the claim. This way, they can objectively share any strengths or weaknesses in the case.
This objectivity can help neutralize any emotions that either party is feeling and may encourage them to negotiate a settlement. All information shared with the mediator is confidential, so plaintiffs, defendants, and their lawyers can feel comfortable discussing the case without the fear of repercussions. Mediators also discuss the risks of going to trial, including relying on a jury’s decision and the high costs that may be involved.
Good mediators ask lots of questions, which are designed to have plaintiffs and defendants reconsider their opinions. Mediators can also objectively explain why plaintiffs and defendants should lower or raiser their settlement offers. This may require a lot of back-and-forth negotiating until things are agreed upon.
Experienced mediators listen to what both sides have to say while remaining as objective as possible. If there are arguments, they can calm people down. Keep in mind that mediators cannot give actual legal advice and cannot make legal decisions. They are there to reduce arguments and maximize cooperation. For this reason, it is always important to consult with a lawyer, even if one is going through mediation.
Oftentimes, a personal injury mediation will put events in motion for an out-of-court settlement. In the long run, this can be beneficial for both parties, saving on court costs, fees, and stress. Even if an agreed settlement is not made at the mediation, the negotiations may continue afterwards; some cases like this settle closer to the trial date. If it does go to trial, it may be easier to settle.
Personal injury mediations do not result in final, binding decisions, so neither side faces the risk of an unfavorable, permanent result. They do not always succeed, though, and some cases must eventually go to trial. However, there is always the chance that both parties will experience positive incomes.
Even if the case does go to trial, both sides can get insight on the case and ideas about the potential for settlements. Even if they do not, going to mediation could be a step in the right direction toward settling a personal injury case. If a victim is contemplating mediation, a knowledgeable lawyer can guide them.
Mediation is not always an option in personal injury cases, but it could be the best way to help settle your claim. Our Pittsburgh personal injury lawyers at AlpernSchubert P.C. help clients with their personal injury cases, including mediation. For a free consultation, complete our online form or call us at 412-765-1888. Located in Pittsburgh, we serve clients throughout western Pennsylvania, including Allegheny County, Lawrence County, and Washington County.
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