What Happens in Mediation for a Personal Injury Claim?
In California, civil cases may go to mediation if the court so orders, when the case involves more than $50,000 in damages or if the parties stipulate to mediation at least 90 days before the trial date. “Mediation brings people in conflict together with a neutral third person who assists them in reaching a voluntary agreement,” as stated by the American Bar Association (ABA). The purpose of the mediator is to help the parties clarify the issues, consider their options, and reach a workable agreement.
What Can You Expect in Mediation?
If you have filed a lawsuit with the court in a personal injury claim with damages that exceed $50,000, the judge may order you and the defendant to mediation. You may also choose mediation as a way of attempting to settle the matter out of court, provided the mediation is held at least 90 days before trial is set.
Choosing a Mediator
Many mediators are retired attorneys or judges in private mediation practice. Your attorney and the lawyer for the defense will need to agree on which mediator to use in your case. It will likely be someone with whom both sides are familiar. You want a mediator who has credibility with the defense but will not hesitate to point out the strong points of your case. A mediator should be a neutral third party, trusted by both sides.
When mediation is in progress, you and your attorney will likely be in one room, while the defense is in a separate room with the lawyer for the defense and an insurance adjuster from the defense’s insurance company. The adjuster is the person who controls how much the insurance company will offer you as a settlement. The mediator will move back and forth between the two rooms, discussing the case with you and your attorney, and then with the insurance adjuster and the defense. The mediator may speak with your attorney privately, outside of your hearing, about the strengths and weaknesses of your case.
Your Role in the Process
As the plaintiff, you will play a limited role in the mediation process and may not have much interaction with the other side. The mediator and insurance adjuster may want to meet with you briefly, to get an idea of how you would be as a witness. Your attorney should prepare you in advance for these meetings. In some cases, the mediator may want to put the parties together in a room for a joint session. If this occurs, your lawyer should prepare you, so you know what to expect.
What if You Do Not Reach a Settlement?
The purpose of conducting a mediation is to settle the case and avoid going to trial. That may be accomplished if the other side makes a fair settlement offer. An experienced Long Beach personal injury lawyer can assess the full extent of your losses – past, present, and future—and advise you on whether to accept a settlement. If the other side makes a low-ball offer that does not cover your damages, you may have to leave mediation without settling the case. Subsequent mediation sessions may be scheduled, or the mediator may continue to assist both sides in negotiations. Your case may still be settled out of court.
The Law Firm of Joseph H. Low IV was founded in 2002. Mr. Low has tried cases in 14 different states. He has been rated 10.0 Superb by Avvo. Call us at (562) 901-0840 or toll-free at (888) 454-5569 for outstanding legal representation if you have been injured through someone else’s negligence.