The U.S. legal system has been slowly but surely moving away from the adversarial civil courts system, which is expensive, stressful and takes too much time to resolve personal injury cases. Instead, people have been taking advantage of different types of alternative dispute resolution–particularly, mediation.
Mediation is now used frequently by insurance companies and personal injury lawyers. Mediation may be a viable option if you are stuck in negotiations for personal injury settlement.
The basics of mediation and personal injury
Mediation is a process where the disputing parties sit down with a neutral third party (the mediator), who is trained to assist them in reaching a mutually acceptable solution to their conflicts. Mediation is voluntary until a dispute escalates into a personal injury lawsuit. The mediator does not make decisions, or give opinions. If the parties do not reach an agreement, they will go back to mediation. A mediator cannot use any information from the other side in the later stages of a dispute.
Mediation costs are usually divided equally between both sides. It is informal and each side can have their say without having to go through any legal procedures. They also don’t have to worry about losing if they do the wrong thing.
Although mediations in personal injury cases generally follow a common structure, they can vary between mediators. Typically:
- Each party talks to the mediator in the presence the other party
- Each party can speak directly with the mediator, who facilitates the exchange.
- Each person can speak for themselves to the mediator.
The mediator uses the information from both parties to coax the other side into changing their position enough so they can reach an agreement. The mediation is open to all parties and there are no restrictions as to what they can say or how facts and views are presented.
One source may offer mediation:
Many cities and towns have neighborhood or community dispute resolution centres. These centers are run primarily by volunteers with some experience in dispute resolution, but they are not professionals mediators or have any legal experience. They usually have very low fees. These centers mostly deal with disputes between neighbors, cohabitants, landlords, tenants, small businesses, contractors, and consumers. However, most mediators at these centers don’t have any experience in handling personal injury cases against insurance companies.
Full-time mediators are employed by professional mediation services. They usually have legal experience as well as mediation experience. Many of them are lawyers or retired judges. They can charge large fees, often several hundred dollars per party, for half-day sessions. They also handle many types of mediation, including business and property disputes. Many of them are familiar with personal injury cases.
Independent mediators can be retired or practicing lawyers. Some are experienced in mediating personal injuries cases. Many of these mediators also have experience representing injured parties and insurance companies in personal injury cases. Their experience comes at a steep price, usually between $150 and $300 an hour.
Benefits of Mediation in Your Personal Injury Claim
Mediation is a method of putting an end to a standstill with your insurance adjuster. There are many benefits to mediation. Mediation allows you to be in the same room as the adjuster. This gives you a face and voice on a claim that was otherwise just a file on an adjuster’s desk with a few documents and a voice over the phone.
Mediation does not require any documents or arguments that you don’t already have. You also get a mediator to help you break the deadlock. Mediation can be faster, more cost-effective, and easier than hiring a lawyer, or going to small claims court.
Con of Mediation for Injury Claims
Mediating a personal injuries claim can be difficult because of these barriers. Mediating a personal injury claim is usually a quick process. However, these few hours can prove to be quite costly if you hire a professional mediator. It may not be possible to find a local community mediation service that has experience in handling personal injury cases. It can also be difficult to convince an insurance adjuster that mediation is possible due to the additional work involved, including the need to appear at the mediation session.
To Mediate or not to Mediate…
- These benefits and obstacles are why you might consider mediation for your claim.
- In settlement negotiations, you and the adjuster are more than $3,000 apart.
- The most important thing is how severe your injuries are and to what extent each party was responsible for the accident.
- There are no negotiating moves that you can make.
- These are the conditions that you might find it worthwhile to research mediation, and whether a local mediator is suitable.