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Personal Injury Cases: What Is Mediation?

Picture this: You’re minding your own business and shopping for groceries when you step on a piece of cardboard that some overworked, underpaid stocking clerk left unattended. You slide on the cardboard and take a heavy spill to the floor, landing right on your right arm. You hear a sickening snap and know without a doubt that your arm’s broken.

You request that the grocery store pay your medical expenses and missed wages. A modest sum that they refuse to pay. Now, if you want to reach a settlement, you need to enter mediation. What is mediation? Let’s explore that further!

What Is Mediation?

Mediation is one of the most crucial steps of any personal injury lawsuit. (For a more detailed, step-by-step guide to personal injury lawsuits, you can check out these helpful resources.) But just what is mediation?

To simplify a somewhat complex legal process, mediation allows disputants to attempt to reach a settlement without going to court. During this process, an impartial third party, or mediator, helps the two parties settle their dispute. These meetings can be informal or part of a scheduled conference, depending on the sums and parties involved.

Most mediation sessions are not mandatory to attend, barring governmental or contractual obligations.

What Cases Are Eligible for Mediation?

There are many types of lawsuits that might be eligible for mediation. Many of the most common include a personal injury case, divorce settlements, employment disputes, and any case that doesn’t involve evidentiary or criminal disputes. Most potential civil suits can benefit from the negotiation skills and patience of a mediator.

The Six Stages of Mediation: A Guide

When you’re entering mediation as part of a lawsuit or settlement, the process has six stages. Here’s what happens during each one.

Mediator’s Opening Statement

Once all parties have arrived at the meeting location and become seated, the mediator introduces everyone. Afterward, they explain the goals and rules of the mediation process, encouraging the disputing parties to work together to find a solution and settlement.

Disputing Parties’ Opening Statements

At this point, each of the disputants is allowed to state their case. They describe the dispute and its repercussions, financial, medical, or otherwise. In the incident described in the introduction, this would be where you can make your case about the grocery store’s liability for your medical bills or lost wages.

Once both parties have said their piece, the mediator might offer some suggestions for a resolution. Regardless, while one person speaks, no others are allowed to interrupt.

Hosting a Joint Discussion

Once all parties have given their statements about the dispute, the mediator takes the lead of the discussion. They may encourage the two parties to respond to each other’s statements and accusations. If the parties seem capable of responding to each other peaceably, the mediator may lead them to find a solution here.

Private Caucuses

Once the joint discussion concludes, the mediator will have a chance to meet with each of the parties. During this segment, the disputants will be placed into separate rooms. The mediator will then go between the two rooms, discussing the strengths and weaknesses of each party’s position. This will allow them to exchange offers and counteroffers. 

The mediator will continue these exchanges for as long as time allows. These meetings are the core of the mediation process.

Hosting a Joint Negotiation

Once the caucuses conclude, the mediator may bring the two sides of the dispute back into the room so that they can negotiate terms directly. However, this is an unusual practice. More often, the mediator won’t bring the parties back together until it’s time to reach a settlement or their time in the meeting space runs out.

Closure

If everyone is able to come to an agreement, then the mediator will put all provisions of the said agreement in writing. Once everything’s written down, each side must then sign off on the agreement. If no settlement could be reached, they will then discuss whether it’s worth it to meet back up, and when such a meeting may take place.

Why Is Mediation Important?

Mediation is a critical part of the settlement process for many reasons. Chief among them is that it could help everyone involved going to court. As satisfying as suing the grocery store for all they’re worth might feel, it’s not a battle you’re likely to win without a well-trained lawyer. And lawyers, as everyone knows, can be expensive.

No one wants their case to go to trial if they can reasonably avoid it. No one wants to hire a lawyer unless they absolutely have to. That’s why mediation is so important.

Who Can Serve As a Mediator?

Technically speaking, anyone who isn’t party to the dispute can serve as a mediator. However, if you want negotiations to go smoothly, you need someone with patience, empathy, and negotiation skills in abundance. Plus, if you intend to draft a contract or settlement after the conclusion of the meeting, you’ll need someone with legal or contract writing experience to draw up the terms.

This should go without saying, but even if someone you know well is a third party to the dispute, they will not be a true neutral party. Don’t reach out to people you know for help mediating your disputes.

Reviewing the Basics of Mediation

What is mediation? Mediation is the means by which disputing parties can reach a settlement or solution by use of a third party. It’s critical in any personal injury lawsuit and will help you avoid having to go to court.

If you found this article about the mediation process informative and would like to read more like it, check out our blog each day for more articles like this one!

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