Although most personal injury claims are settled through negotiation, sometimes a fair agreement simply can’t be reached. The personal injury lawyers at Thomas, Conrad & Conrad negotiate aggressively for injured victims and are skilled litigators who aren’t afraid to take cases to court. However, before entering into a potentially lengthy and costly trial, we often recommend personal injury mediation to try and resolve issues. In certain jurisdictions, mediation is required before litigating a case in court.
What Is Personal Injury Mediation?
As a method of alternative dispute resolution (ADR), mediation involves an impartial third-party mediator who facilitates negotiations between a plaintiff and defendant to help them reach a mutually agreeable resolution. It’s important to keep in mind that a mediator doesn’t make a final decision, as an arbiter, judge, or jury would. Their goal is to help settle the case fairly and efficiently without a trial.
Who Can Be A Mediator?
Qualifications for being a personal injury mediator vary by jurisdiction, but typically, they are often attorneys, retired judges, or other professionals with experience and training in mediation. When choosing a mediator, it’s critical to look at their training, experience, and mediation style. Your personal injury lawyer will most likely recommend a mediator who is considered trustworthy and competent by all parties, including the defense. In certain cases, a mediator may be appointed by the court.
What Is The Injured Victim’s Role In Personal Injury Mediation?
Generally, your role during mediation is limited. You’ve probably already given a deposition to defense counsel, so there isn’t much direct interaction between you and the defendants. However, before mediation begins, you may meet with the mediator so they can gauge your stance on current negotiations. The insurance adjuster might want to briefly speak with you, as well. Your attorney will prepare you for this ahead of time.
What Happens During Mediation Sessions?
To begin, the mediator introduces themselves and ensures that all parties meet each other and understand their roles in the case. The mediator then asks everyone to sign a confidentiality agreement, which means that all spoken and written communication in mediation is kept confidential and cannot be divulged, even at trial.
The plaintiff’s and defendant’s attorneys will each give an opening statement presenting their side of the case. An insurer’s defense attorney will probably give reasons why they are offering a certain settlement amount. Their presentation style may be adversarial or more thoughtful. It all depends on the specifics of the situation and the attorney’s individual style.
During personal injury mediation, the defense is usually in one room while you and your attorney are in another. The defense usually includes the insurance adjuster and the insurer’s defense attorney. The mediator will discuss the case with each side, going back and forth between the rooms, hopefully helping you reach a fair resolution.
Sometimes a mediator may talk to your attorney privately to frankly discuss the pros and cons of your case, so your lawyer can get a feel for where the defense is on a settlement amount. In some instances, the mediator may want all parties to get together in one room for a joint session. Your lawyer will prepare you for this, so you know what to expect. No two cases are alike, so how mediation proceeds depends on the specific circumstances.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many mediations are taking place via Zoom or other videoconferencing systems, but the process is the same.
Coming To A Settlement Agreement In Personal Injury Mediation
The goal of mediation is to settle your personal injury or accident claim. If a consensus on a settlement amount is reached, each party will sign a document outlining the settlement agreement’s terms. The lawyers will prepare any paperwork that needs to be filed with the court. You will be required to sign a release agreeing that the case is settled, prohibiting you from pursuing any further action against the defendant.
If your personal injury case isn’t settled in mediation, don’t despair. Sometimes it takes multiple sessions to get matters resolved. After weighing their options, a defendant may offer an acceptable settlement after mediation, so a court case isn’t necessary. If the defendant still isn’t offering what you’re requesting, your personal injury lawyer will continue to prepare for trial, and your case will be heard in front of a judge or jury.
Contact An Attorney To Learn More About Personal Injury Mediation
At Thomas, Conrad & Conrad, we fight for your rights and won’t back down until you recover the maximum compensation you deserve. Call our Bethlehem office at 610-867-2900, or contact us online to schedule a free consultation today. Our lawyers serve clients throughout Eastern Pennsylvania and have additional locations in Northampton, Lehigh, Berks, and Monroe Counties.