A mediation is a court-ordered or voluntary process between parties involved in a legal dispute where a mediator acts as a neutral third-party to try to help the parties resolve the dispute and settle the case. The purpose of mediation is to resolve the claim without having to go forward with both sides spending money and one side getting the complete opposite result than they envisioned at trial. As opposed to a trial, parties have the ability to terminate the mediation. Every mediation is different and every mediator handles mediation differently.
In a mediation involving a car accident the parties who usually attend include the driver who brought the claim, their lawyer, the other driver’s attorney, and an insurance company representative who has authority to settle the claim. Both sides usually agree on the front-end to split the costs of the mediation (after all, the mediator needs to get paid), but that can be a point of negotiation in the mediation and final settlement. Before the parties mediate the case, both sides will send a confidential mediation statement to the mediator explaining their respective positions so the mediator knows the basic facts and each party’s position as to both liability and damages. Often times, an introductory session takes place where the mediator explains process to both sides, that anything stated in the mediation must remain confidential, and requires the parties sign a mediation agreement that everything stated in the mediation must remain confidential and not used at trial. After this is signed, both the plaintiff and defendant will then go to different rooms where the mediator will have a chance to talk to each side in private. The mediator will go back and forth between rooms will offers and counteroffers, discussing the strengths and weaknesses (both legally and factually) of each party’s case with that party, trying to get a deal done.
Mediations can take a full day or more depending on the amount and scope of issues in play. Even if both parties left mediation without striking a deal, the mediator often continues to try to get a deal done between the parties. If the parties end up resolving the case, it is not uncommon that the mediator will help draft up the settlement terms and assist in putting together the settlement agreement.
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