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Car Accident Mediation Process and Timeline

The majority of car accident cases are resolved out-of-court through settlement negotiations. Mediation can be one of the most efficient ways to resolve legal disputes after a car accident. But what does mediation entail, and how does it differ from a trial? Read on to learn about the car accident mediation process and timeline.

What Is Mediation?

Mediation is a method of alternative dispute resolution facilitated by a neutral third party (often called a mediator). The purpose of mediation is to resolve legal disputes arising from a car accident injury without taking the case to trial.

Mediation gives each party an opportunity to:

  • Explain their perspective
  • Make negotiations to settle the auto accident claim

Unlike other types of alternative dispute resolution, mediation does not involve a binding decision by a neutral third party. The parties have full power to end the mediation or resolve the issues as they like.

Typically, car accident mediation is between:

  1. The driver and their attorney who brought the claim, and
  2. The other driver, their lawyer, and a representative of the other driver's insurance company

In most cases, both you and the other party or parties will equally pay for mediation. Thus, be sure that the other party is willing to resolve the car accident claim to avoid wasting money and time.

Selecting a Mediator

A mediator is a neutral third party who facilitates the discussion during the mediation. Car accident mediators are usually retired judges or lawyers who regularly mediate personal injury cases.

During mediation, mediators play an important role in:

  • Identifying the issues
  • Exploring the bases for resolution
  • Discussing the consequences of the agreement
  • Guiding the parties to accommodate the interests of the other parties

You and the other party should carefully decide who would be the best fit for your dispute as a mediator.

Before You Go to Mediation

Before mediation, both parties may need to prepare a mediation statement, which contains the facts from their perspective, their arguments, perceived obstacles to settlement, and their settlement demands. The mediation statements are given to the mediator and the parties at mediation so that everyone has equal knowledge of the case.

Medical Bills and Treatment

Document all medical treatments and bills related to the accident. This evidence can impact the strength of your claim and the potential settlement amount during mediation. Your medical records will provide the following:

  • A tangible link between the accident and your injuries
  • Proof of the extent and severity of your injuries
  • The cost of your medical treatment
  • The potential need for ongoing care

Mental Health Considerations

Car accidents can result in not just physical injuries but also significant emotional and psychological distress, such as:

These mental health conditions can be considered in your personal injury claim, potentially increasing your settlement amount during mediation.

Negotiating With the Insurance Company

Dealing with the insurance company can be a challenging part of the car accident mediation process. The insurance adjuster's job is to minimize the amount the insurance company has to pay out. They may attempt to negotiate down your insurance claim or find reasons to deny it altogether.

Be prepared with all necessary documents, such as:

  • A police report
  • Medical records
  • Evidence of property damage to substantiate your claim and receive a fair settlement offer

The Role of a Personal Injury Lawyer

A personal injury lawyer can be an invaluable asset during the mediation process. They have the expertise to:

  • Evaluate the worth of your claim
  • Understand mediation procedures
  • Negotiate with the insurance adjuster regardless of disclaimers
  • Advocate for your rights during the mediation

Having a personal injury lawyer on your side is one of the best ways to help you receive a fair settlement.

What Happens During the Mediation?

A typical car accident mediation will begin with an introductory session in the presence of the mediator and both parties (you and your attorney and the other driver or their insurance company representative). Once the mediation begins, the mediator will first inform the parties of preliminary matters and their rights.

The mediator will tell the parties that any statements made during the mediation are confidential, which means they can't be used against them in court.

After the introductory session, the mediation can proceed either in a single room or separately in different rooms. The parties will present their statements on the case and describe the dispute. Then, the mediator will hold private caucuses in separate rooms.

The mediator will usually go back and forth to ask each party to present their best offer for settlement and the reason why such an offer is fair and reasonable. If offers made by both parties are somewhat close, the mediator will suggest both parties come to an agreement by meeting halfway.

If the offers are too far apart, the mediator will suggest both parties either (1) reconsider their decision and come up with a new proposal or (2) terminate the mediation and proceed with a lawsuit.

Duration of Mediation

The duration of a car accident mediation can vary case by case. There is no time limit to mediation itself, so it may take up to several weeks to reach a resolution. However, the typical car accident mediation process lasts anywhere from a few hours to a few days.

What To Expect After Mediation

Typically, the key terms of a settlement agreement are agreed to during mediation, leaving the parties to finalize the remaining terms following mediation. After reaching a resolution on those remaining terms and preparing a final settlement agreement, the parties will sign the agreement. This settlement agreement is an enforceable contract that can be enforced in court.

A Car Accident Lawyer Can Explain the Car Accident Mediation Process

Keep in mind that mediation is an attempt to settle a dispute out of court. You shouldn't be forced to settle the dispute if you're not satisfied with the resolution.

Even though you're not required to have a lawyer represent you in mediation, an experienced car accident attorney can give you legal advice and help you maximize the value of your case.

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Contact a qualified auto accident attorney to make sure your rights are protected.

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