By Timothy F. Rayne, Esquire-
Mediation is a form of Alternative Dispute Resolution, which means another way of resolving a legal controversy, like a Personal Injury Case, without negotiating a direct settlement with the other side or having a Jury Trial in Court.
In Mediation, the parties agree to use a neutral person, usually a senior or retired litigation attorney or Judge, to evaluate a case and try to help the parties reach a voluntary negotiated resolution. Nobody is forced to settle and either party can end the Mediation process at any time. The Mediator’s job is not to decide the case, but instead to help bring the parties to a negotiated settlement agreement.
The Mediation Process
The following is the usual step-by-step Process:
- Pick a Mediator – The parties need to choose someone who they both trust and respect.
- Educate the Mediator – Each party submits detailed descriptions of the case to the Mediator including documents and evidence that are important to the case.
- Attend the Mediation – The Mediation itself is usually a day or half-day and takes place at the Mediator’s office, one of the lawyers’ offices or some other neutral location. The lawyers and clients are present and, in a Personal Injury case, a representative of the insurance company is either present or available by phone with authority to negotiate a settlement.
- Joint Session – The Mediation begins with a Joint Session where the Mediator explains the Process. Often during the session, the lawyers will give Opening Remarks about the case.
- Separate Sessions – After the Joint Session, the parties are sent to separate rooms and the Mediator travels between the two rooms discussing the merits of the case and working on negotiating a settlement.
- Mediation Ending – A Mediation ends one of two ways, with a settlement or with one or both sides deciding that there cannot be a resolution.
- After the Mediation – It’s common for the Mediator to stay involved in unsettled cases after the date of the Mediation and to continue to work with the lawyers to attempt to guide them to a resolution.
The Benefits of Mediation
- Saves time, stress and expense – Mediation can save litigation time, stress and expense. It provides the opportunity to try to settle the case before the parties spend the time, effort, emotion and expense of trying the case in court.
- Mediation is a Final Resolution – Mediation ends the case. It avoids the delay involved in a trial and eliminates the possibility of an appeal because it’s a final resolution.
- Get insight and opinions of an experienced expert – At the Mediation you will get the opinions and insight of the Mediator who is an experienced and wise lawyer. The Mediator can evaluate the probability of each side winning the case as well as the fair value of the case. Although both parties must be aware that the Mediator’s job is to settle the case so he/she is always working towards that end, the Mediator often provides valuable feedback on the strengths and weaknesses of the case. This can help to settle the case or help us make the case stronger if it has to be taken to trial.
If your Personal Injury case cannot be settled directly with the defense, it is often advisable to consider the mediation process before taking a case to trial. Unless it is clear that the case has a very low probability of settling, the benefits of mediation are usually worth the time, effort and cost.
Tim Rayne is a Personal Injury Lawyer with the Pennsylvania law firm MacElree Harvey. Tim has law offices in Kennett Square and West Chester Pennsylvania. For over 25 years, Tim has been helping injured victims of accidents receive fair compensation from insurance companies. To learn more about Tim’s practice, visit timraynelaw.com.
To schedule your free consultation, call (610) 840-0124, or email [email protected].