As a means of settling disputes without either side having to endure the costs and considerable effort of a lawsuit, mediation is growing in popularity and even required in some jurisdictions in an effort to lower the amount of cases heard in court. Simply put, mediation is a meeting between the parties to a personal injury claim and a mediator in an effort to resolve the dispute without having it go to trial. Usually, a meeting to explore the possibility of mediation takes place after the written discovery is complete and a disposition has been taken from the injured party.
A mediator is most often someone who has been involved with personal injury claims for years, such as an experienced attorney or a retired judge, and the informal mediation hearing often takes place in a neutral location such as the mediator’s office. If it is mediation for one, the two parties usually agree on who the mediator will be. During the hearing, the mediator will explain the rules of mediation and remind each party that any settlement achieved at the mediation will remain strictly confidential as the law requires.
If the mediation will be decided by a panel instead of a single mediator, both sides will choose a mediator and then the two mediators will select the third mediator on the panel. Whether the hearing is conducted by a single mediator or a panel of mediators, both sides of the dispute gives their version early on during the mediation hearing. Then, the mediator(s) provide their opinion of the best way to resolve the dispute without going to trial and try to get the two sides to compromise with a settlement.
If both sides are able to reach an agreeable accommodation and a binding settlement is reached, they can avoid the considerable costs and effort of a trial in court. Generally, court rules stipulate that any agreement should be in writing and bear the signatures of the principal parties on either side of the dispute. However, if the parties in the dispute are unable to agree on a settlement, no one is legally bound to the results and the dispute will be litigated in a court trial.