Mediation is a way to solve a legal dispute between two or more parties using a third party – a mediator – to help negotiate a settlement that is satisfactory to both parties.
Mediators can be used for a variety of different situations, including divorce proceedings, commercial disputes, financial issues, and workplace disputes, among others. Attorneys representing each side are present during the proceedings and ultimately help clients make a decision that is in their best interest at the end of the sessions.
A mediator acts as a negotiator, and helps the two sides come to a resolution in hopes of avoiding arbitration or a trial.
During a mediation, both parties are given a chance to present their side of an issue. First, the mediator will usually meet with both sides together, describing how the process will work and the role he or she will play in the proceedings.
In most cases, the mediator will then meet with each side separately, which will allow each side to offer more in-depth information, which will give the mediator more information to guide negotiations.
If both sides are far apart in negotiations and are looking at an impasse, the mediator will attempt to help negotiate a resolution or plan a second session, which will allow sides to gather more information and discuss viable options with their attorneys.
Mediation sessions will generally take about a day, and those initial separate meetings will ensure that all the information that is available to support each side’s position in the dispute has been reviewed.
After the private meetings, the mediator may bring the two parties together again to attempt to resolve the dispute.
If both parties agree on a solution that meets both sides’ needs, the personal injury lawyer representing each side will draw up agreements that will become binding when signed.
Parties usually recognize that settling after mediation is usually in the best interest of both sides, rather than risk going in front of a judge, jury or arbitrator, where one side in the right may lose. If, however, one side feels strongly that they have the resources, tenacity and evidence to win their case, they should walk out on mediation and take the case to trial. Settling could mean that a client receives compensation that will not cover the costs of medical care or other expenses, and that is an unacceptable outcome for a client that has put his or her trust in an attorney to do the best for them that they can.
If no resolution can be reached, there are several options, including face-to-face negotiations that make come to a resolution since both parties have a better understanding of the other party’s position, or these will go to arbitration – in which an arbitrator decides the case – or a jury trial.