While necessary at times, personal injury claims can present many challenges to all parties involved. Any given personal injury case can take weeks or even months just to get traction, and it can be a year or more before the back-and-forth negotiations finally result in a settlement agreement. Legal mediation can benefit this time-consuming process, which helps parties communicate and reach an agreement.
What Is Mediation?
Mediation is an alternative dispute resolution process that incorporates the help of a neutral third party to move two parties toward an agreement or settlement. Personal injury claim mediation is often between an injured victim and the insurance company representative or insurance adjuster they have communicated with for settlement negotiations.
The mediation process is often used to break a gridlock situation in which both parties are unwilling to meet the other at a compromise. A mediation session is designed to help them find an agreeable settlement. Your personal injury attorney can help you prepare for the joint session and know what to say to best represent your personal injury case. The advice of personal injury attorneys can sometimes be a critical factor in navigating mediation well.
Ideally, the mediator helps both parties agree on a settlement, though they cannot force them to agree or sign anything. This neutral third person will usually start the mediation process by gathering everyone together in the same room and giving opening statements about the process ahead. After this joint session, the mediator will usually bring the two parties to separate rooms where they communicate with the mediator. The mediator will then move back and forth between the rooms and try to help the parties reach an agreement.
Who Conducts Mediation?
Mediation is led and conducted by a mediator who is neutral and not connected to the case at hand in any way. This helps ensure that the mediation will be fair and conducted in such a way that honors both sides in the dispute resolution. There are times when more than one mediator leads the session, referred to as co-mediation.
There are local dispute resolution centers that provide mediation services and are usually on the more affordable side. However, as with almost anything, you get what you pay for, and the mediators from those centers may not always be the most experienced or well-versed in the issues at hand.
Some private mediators are usually retired from practicing law or working in the court system. For example, an experienced attorney gifted at communication may choose to start their own mediation practice. In these cases, each mediator must be evaluated individually to determine their qualifications and how well they’ll be able to handle the case.
Finally, mediation firms with highly-trained mediators are also available, and their mediators will often have a background in law and thus understand well how the process works. If affordable, this option may be the best way to go.
What Are the Pros and Cons of Mediation?
Mediation is an excellent method of solving your difficult case, but it’s not always the best option. Consider these pros and cons of utilizing the mediation process, and discuss them with your defense attorney to get their opinion on how you should proceed.
Pros of Mediation
Mediation can be quick, sometimes resolving more minor cases within only a few hours. The fresh perspective of a mediator can bring a sense of new energy to the case, offering hope that the issue can be resolved and that both parties will have a say in the end.
Speaking honestly about the situation in a confidential setting is one of the biggest pros of using mediation to move your case forward. Confidentiality agreements make mediation a safe place to say what you need to represent your side of the case without fear of your words being used against you outside of the mediation session.
Another great benefit of mediation is that it can help break down the impersonal barrier between the insurance company and yourself. With only email or phone communication, it can be challenging for an insurance company representative to wrap their mind around the personal nature of your situation, and putting a face to the name can help bring them closer to offering a reasonable settlement.
Finally, having a say in the case directly is also a benefit of mediation. If your case were to go to court, you may not be able to speak as directly to it, and it may be left more in the hands of an attorney, judge, and jury. Mediation allows you to participate in the process for yourself.
Cons of Mediation
One of the main cons of mediation is that the other party (whether an insurance company or an individual) has to agree to be present at it, which may not always be possible or desirable for them. This can cause a delay in the overall process of your personal injury claim.
Another downside is the cost. A mediation session can cost a great deal of money when you factor in the cost of the professional mediator and the presence of any personal injury lawyer. It’s best to find out the specifics of fees beforehand, so you aren’t surprised by the bill later. However, mediation may still be an effective way to save money when considering how much it can cost to go to court with a hired lawyer.
Finally, mediation can be challenging to navigate on your own, and you may not always have the resources to hire a lawyer to attend with you. As a result, it can require a great deal of time and energy to prepare and work toward the right outcome. If you don’t have a lawyer and are going into mediation, be sure to reach out to family or friends who may have solid advice about how best to make your case without professional help from an attorney.
When Should Mediation Be Utilized?
A mediation session can be beneficial for all kinds of cases. Still, to decide whether or not to pursue one, you should consider a couple of factors in your personal injury case.
First, if you and the other party have a significant gap between your settlement offers, it may be best to go the route of a mediation session. A considerable gap would be anything from about $3,000 and higher, but in any individual case, you may decide that a smaller gap is still too much to compromise with. Getting a reasonable offer will likely require personal injury mediation in these kinds of cases.
Second, if there is any significant disagreement about fault, it may signify that your case would benefit from a mediation session. There is a stark breakdown in communications between different parties when they aren’t in agreement about fault, which can, in turn, lead to significantly different offers on the table, drawing out the process and causing frustration.
Keep in mind that many judges will actually order mediation to occur (requiring it) before a trial date can proceed in the first place. Most personal injury claims can be solved before trial, and mediation sessions are one reason why that’s the case.
Find Legal Counsel at 1800 Ask Gary
If you’ve been involved in a workplace or car accident and have been injured or dealing with gridlock in your personal injury case, contact 1-800-Ask-Gary today to connect to the right people who can help your case. We can provide you with the personnel resources needed to find the right mediation and outcome for your case.