When seeking to work through a personal injury claim there are several means to resolution. Most of our clients are familiar with the trial option, however an alternative that people may be unfamiliar with is mediation.
Mediation, along with arbitration and negotiation, are the most common forms of ADR, or Alternative Dispute Resolution. Mediation uses a mediator, often experienced in the claim’s area of law, to bring both parties to an equitable settlement. Mediators are often retired judges with decades of courtroom experience, giving them unique insight in the trial and settlement process. Mediators take an active role in case resolution, offering straightforward assessments of settlement offers.
Typically mediation involves each side presenting their claim to the mediator, a process that can be done separately, with both parties present, over the telephone or by email. The mediator then isolates each party and begins the mediation process. The plaintiff speaks to the mediator and provides a settlement offer; at that point the defense accepts or counters the offer. During mediation the rules of civil procedure and evidence are often relaxed, allowing a party to introduce testimony, paperwork, or other evidence without the formal authentication process required in court. The relaxed rules of evidence can help lower the overall cost of the case for each party. Mediation is not binding. This means that if either party is unsatisfied with the outcome of mediation he or she may still proceed with litigation. However, the success rate of mediation is 85-90%. The success rate and the ability to walk away from the mediation offer is empowers the plaintiff to reach the best possible outcome for his or her case.
Mediation differs from arbitration, a process in which each party presents their case to an arbitrator. After each party has presented their side of the case, the arbitrator renders a decision that is binding, meaning that no party will be allowed to appeal the decision to a court or to another arbitration panel. Again, the rules of evidence and civil procedure are relaxed which lowers the overall cost of the proceeding.
There are a variety of arbitration and mediation options: The American Arbitration Association, the McCammon Group, and JAMS. All these groups engage in alternative dispute resolution in a manner consistent with the Burnett and Williams focus on obtaining just and fair results for the people we represent.