Taking a personal injury lawsuit to court is an expensive and slow process. It can consume years of your life and, at best, the results are difficult to predict. It is no wonder, when faced with the expense and stress of preparing for a jury trial, that both plaintiffs and defendants have come to rely more and more on mediation rather than litigation.
Mediation offers a sensible resolution to a situation in which two parties are not able to work out their differences. If handled properly, mediation can be very effective.
What Is Personal Injury Mediation?
Personal injury mediation involves a neutral third party known as a mediator who is trained to help those who want to come to a mutually satisfactory settlement of a dispute. If the parties cannot agree, mediation can stop and they are free to pursue litigation at that point.
A mediator does not render judgments or give opinions. The mediator’s role is strictly to keep the negotiations going until both parties have reached an agreement or are prepared to give up. Mediation is entirely voluntary and both parties have the right to walk away or refuse to continue negotiations. Nothing that is said or done in mediation can be held against either party if the case continues to trial.
Mediation costs are usually split equally by both parties. The process of mediation includes very informal talks in which both sides have a say without the burden of proper legal courtroom procedure.
Personal injury mediation follows a basic pattern in which both parties tell their “side” to the mediator. Both sides can also speak directly to each other with the mediator refereeing the interchange. Each party can also request time to speak to the mediator alone. What is said when the other party is not present is kept confidential.
How Can I Utilize Mediation in My Personal Injury Case?
While you are free to utilize mediation without the help of a personal injury attorney, it is often the case, as with any negotiation involving injury cases, that those with an attorney fare better in mediation than those without. Having an attorney does not bar you from utilizing mediation; in fact, your attorney can accompany you and speak on your behalf during the proceedings.
You can find mediation services in a number of locations, including:
- Neighborhood dispute resolution centers. These centers are often staffed by volunteers who do not necessarily have legal experience. These centers also charge little to no money for their services, making them an option for those who need to save money.
- Professional mediation services. For personal injury cases, it is usually better to utilize a mediator with experience in such matters. Mediators at professional mediation service firms have often handled many personal injury cases and may be able to speed up the process for you. However, these mediators do charge substantial fees for theirs services.
- Independent mediators. Retired judges and lawyers sometimes become mediators, but their fees are very high. However, if you want someone to handle your case that understands and has experience with litigation, this may be the answer.
Why Should I Use Mediation For My Personal Injury Claim?
Mediation has several advantages when you are stalled in settling your case. First, you are able to sit in the same room with the insurance adjustor, possibly motivating him or her to look at your case in a more human manner. Second, you may be more likely to get special effort to settle your claim quickly. Finally, you do not need documents and formal legal filings to mediate, so this is a much cheaper alternative than the courts.
However, there are a few disadvantages to mediation as well. Mediation can be expensive if you use a professional mediator. However, if you choose an inexpensive mediation service, you may not settle your case for what you were hoping. Further, some insurance companies try to avoid mediation to avoid settling claims quickly.
How do you know whether to use mediation? Here are a few signs that mediation may be right for your personal injury matter:
- You and the insurance adjuster differ by more than $2,000 in valuing your claim
- The insurance adjustor does not believe your injury is as serious as you claim
- There is dispute over the fault of the accident
- You are at an impasse in your negotiations
Your personal injury attorney can give you more details on the benefits and possible risks of mediation and can help you successfully mediate your case.