What is Mediation?
Many law firms estimate that over 95% of all car accident or personal injury claims are settled out of court, with both parties negotiating their claims and eventually coming to a mutual agreement. One of the most common methods of alternative dispute resolution is mediation.
Mediation involves both parties sitting down in front of a neutral third party, known as a mediator. Each party explains their perspective on the claims and then negotiates to reach a settlement. Unlike other dispute resolutions, like arbitration, mediation is non-binding, and both parties can leave the process whenever and for any reason. Most car accident mediation ends successfully, and those that don’t will usually settle before the case ends up in court.
The Mediation Process in Arizona
In terms of personal injury or car accident cases, mediation can occur between the person who brought the claim and the other driver, or a legal representative from their insurance company. Typically, both parties pay for the cost of mediation costs, so both parties have an interest in resolving the case in good faith.
The first step in the process is to hire a mediator. In general, mediators are retired judges or lawyers with substantial experience in personal injury cases. The mediator plays a vital role in the mediation, as they will clarify the issue at hand, discuss the consequences of any proposed agreements, and guide the parties to reach a mutually beneficial arrangement.
Once the mediator is selected, the parties prepare mediation briefs. A good brief contains a summary of the case, identifies the witnesses and evidence supporting the claims and defenses, and advocates why a party will win at trial. It should also include prior settlement discussions.
What Happens in a Car Accident Mediation Hearing?
Mediation often starts with an introductory session, with all participants in the same room. The mediator describes the process and reminds the parties that mediation is confidential.
How the rest of the car accident mediation progresses depends on the parties and the mediator. Sometimes the session will take place with everyone in the same room, but most of the time the parties break into separate rooms.
The mediator then gathers information about the claims and defendants from both parties and requests an amount the party will agree to settle the case. The mediator then goes to the other party to discuss the claims and defenses. This process usually requires some back and forth, depending on how far apart the initial settlement offers are.
If the offers are very far apart, the mediator will ask the parties to reconsider their stance based on the evidence presented in the session. If the mediator thinks that the two sides have irreconcilable positions, they will terminate the session and suggest that the parties resolve their dispute by a jury trial.
How Long Does Mediation Take?
Personal injury mediation sessions don’t have a set, legally mandated time limit. The main limiting factor is the mediator’s fees, which both parties have to pay, making it in everybody’s best interest to attempt to reach an agreement as soon as possible. In general, individual sessions of auto accident mediation take as little as an hour to as long as several hours.
Ideally, a good mediator should recognize whether or not there is a good chance the parties will reach a settlement. If the mediator believes that the sides are to far apart in their settlement discussions, the best course of action is to terminate the mediation and go to trial.
Do You Need an Attorney for Mediation?
While mediation isn’t a formal legal proceeding, we recommend retaining a lawyer for mediation. Navigating a personal injury claim can be tricky at the best of times, and many insurance companies will use mediation proceedings to bring out their intimidation tactics to get you to accept a low offer.
Keep in mind that many insurance companies have gone through hundreds of mediations and know how settle for the least amount possible. You may end up settling for less than you wanted due to feeling pressured or uncertain about your claim, when in fact, you should feel confident.
If you’re uncertain about what your rights are during an auto accident mediation, call us. We’ll ensure that your rights are protected and that you get the car accident or injury case settlement you deserve.