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 the legal disputes that arise 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 that is facilitated by a neutral third party (often called a mediator). The purpose of mediation is to resolve legal disputes without taking the case to trial. Mediation gives each party an opportunity to explain their perspective and make negotiations to settle the claim. Unlike other types of alternative dispute resolution, mediation does not involve a binding decision by the neutral third party. The parties have full power to terminate 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, or a representative or the lawyer 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 matter in order 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 consequences of the agreement, and guiding the parties to accommodate the interests of the other parties. Therefore, 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 be required to prepare a brief, which contains arguments and settlement demands. The briefs are given to the mediator and the parties at mediation, so that everyone has equal knowledge of the case.
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 at 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 offer is fair and reasonable. If offers made by both parties are somewhat close, the mediator will suggest both parties to 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 Except After Mediation
Typically, the key terms of a settlement agreement are agreed to during mediation, leaving the parties to finalize the remaining terms of the settlement agreement following mediation. Once a resolution on those remaining terms is reached and a final settlement agreement is prepared, the parties will sign the agreement. Absent unusual circumstances, this settlement agreement is considered to be an enforceable contract, which can be upheld in court in the designated jurisdictions.
An Attorney 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 help you to maximize the value of your case.