When Can Mediation be Used in a Personal Injury Claim?
After filing a personal injury lawsuit, going to trial is one real option to seek compensation. Whether an auto accident, a big-rig collision, a motorcycle, slip and fall, a dog bite, or a workplace accident, your lawyer will try and negotiate with the insurance company to reach a settlement with the at-fault party.
If there is some dispute as to who is at fault, or if the insurer underestimates the value of your case, a trial may be one option. But going to court is an expensive and lengthy process, not to mention you have no guarantee you will win before a jury. Juries are notoriously unpredictable, so taking a case to trial is always risky.
And jury verdicts almost always end up being appealed, which can delay justice even longer.
You may want to avoid going to trial, if you can, to save money and time. One possible alternative to a court trial is mediation. Mediation is a formal process where both sides are represented by professionals. Mediators are frequently retired attorneys, or they may have a law degree and choose to become a mediator.
The court can designate or appoint a mediator registered with the Alabama Center for Dispute Resolution.
The mediator should be a neutral party. S/he has no connection to either the defense or the plaintiff or the outcome of a dispute. Similar to a trial, the mediator will listen to both sides, each who has prepared their version of the events.
You, the plaintiff, and your lawyer will lay out the events as you see them. The other side, the at-fault party, will tell the mediator why they believe they are not at fault, therefore not liable for the cost of the victim’s injuries, or why they believe they should pay a lower amount in compensation than you are asking.
After both sides present their cases, the mediator will facilitate a discussion between the two parties to help them settle. They will carry messages between the two and, ultimately, any settlement offers.
It is important to realize that, unlike a judge or jury, the mediator has no authority to mandate a settlement, and they cannot make any conclusions as to who the at-fault party is. They can only suggest what routes each party may take to come to an agreement.
If both sides cannot reach an agreement with the help of a mediator, the next step may be to prepare for trial or go back to try and negotiate a settlement between the parties.
When Can You Use Mediation?
Mediation can be used at almost any time to resolve cases faster and generally at a lower cost than going to court. In fact, many judges order pre-trial mediation to give the parties a chance to try to work out a settlement on their own.
Some suggestions when mediation might be helpful are:
- Before Filing a Lawsuit
- Before Trial
- Post-Trial but Pre-Appeal
Advantages of Mediation
The plaintiff may feel they have more independence when dealing with a mediator. As mentioned earlier, they do not have to do what the mediator suggests, unlike a final decision rendered by a judge or jury. Once a decision is reached after a trial, the plaintiff has no alternative but to follow the court’s decision or appeal. None of that finality comes into play in mediation.
With a mediator, both sides have the opportunity to continue arguing their case and suggest a creative resolution that each side could be satisfied with.
A disadvantage may be that the at-fault party might offer less compensation than you may be able to recover through litigation. The jury can award a substantial amount and, in some cases, add punitive damages to deter bad behavior by the defendant, which can add significantly more dollars to a settlement amount.
Another disadvantage is that the actions of the at-fault party will not see the light of day so the public can hold them accountable. For this reason, mediation may not be ideal for cases involving wanton and reckless conduct, such as drunk driving accidents.
Your Alabama Personal Injury Attorney
Everything discussed at mediation is confidential and aimed at resolving your injury claim with a fair settlement.
The law office of J. Allan Brown reminds you if we go to mediation and agree to a settlement, your personal injury case can be over in a fraction of the time a trial would take, especially since courts are still backlogged to some extent because of Covid.
During your complimentary consultation, attorney Brown will explore the evidence available in your case and the strength of your evidence and arguments. Gathering this information together can help you decide whether to mediate, negotiate and settle, or take the matter further to trial. A free consultation can begin with a call to (251) 220-3199.
Alabama Center for Dispute Resolution