Resolving a legal dispute can involve multiple legal meetings and processes to try to come to an agreement between the parties. In a personal injury case in New Mexico, alternative dispute resolution (ADR) is a popular choice instead of going to trial. The two main types of ADR are mediation and arbitration. The courts often require parties to try to resolve their claims through mediation before passing the case to trial. Learn what to expect during personal injury mediation as a plaintiff.
What Is Personal Injury Mediation?
Personal injury mediation is a meeting before a neutral third party, known as the mediator. Mediators are typically retired judges, attorneys or others trained in conflict resolution. They are unbiased third parties who are not directly involved in the dispute. This gives them a clear and objective view of the issues at hand and – in many cases – the ability to come up with creative solutions. Personal mediation does not end in a judgment award or court order. Instead, it gives both parties involved in the dispute the chance to come to their own settlement agreement. If mediation does not succeed in a settlement, a personal injury case may go to trial.
What to Expect During Mediation
Mediation can be a useful and effective tool for resolving a personal injury claim without the cost, energy and risk of a full-blown trial. It can come with benefits such as cost savings and the power to control its outcome. In general, personal injury mediation has five parts:
- Introductions. You will arrive at a predetermined time and location for mediation. Once you arrive, the mediator will make introductions and identify everyone in the room. Expect an insurance claims adjuster and defense attorney to come to your meeting. You can bring your own lawyer, if desired. The defendant may or may not appear in person to mediation.
- Confidentiality agreements. The mediator will pass around a document that everyone must sign, known as the confidentiality agreement. This legal document keeps everything that is said during mediation confidential. This means it cannot be used as evidence during a trial if the case is not resolved via ADR.
- Opening statements. Your lawyer will make the first statement, followed by the defense attorney. Opening statements help everyone understand the key elements of the case and what either party is arguing.
- Separation. After the opening statements, both parties will be divided into different rooms for the duration of mediation. The mediator will go back and forth between the rooms to carry messages, ask questions and work out a resolution. The mediator will point out the strengths and flaws of each side’s case.
- Settlement or stalemate. If personal injury mediation ends in a settlement, both parties will sign a written agreement that will resolve the legal dispute and end the case. If mediation is a stalemate, meaning no settlement is achieved, there can be further attempts at ADR later, or else the case will proceed to trial to be resolved by a judge.
Nothing requires you to reach a settlement at the end of personal injury mediation. If your lawyer advises you not to accept the settlement that has been offered by the defense attorney, trust his or her advice. While you may be eager to end your case, your lawyer may recognize going to trial as the best way to achieve fair and full financial compensation for your losses.
Do You Need an Attorney?
With a plaintiff’s attorney by your side, you don’t have to worry about saying or doing the wrong thing during personal injury mediation. Your lawyer can give you advice before, during and after mediation, as well as negotiate with the defendant (or their attorney) on your behalf to achieve a fair case resolution. The odds of an insurance company taking advantage of you will be much lower with an attorney representing you. If mediation fails, a lawyer can represent you during a personal injury trial. For more information about personal injury mediation and your specific case, contact an attorney at the Fine Law Firm for a free case evaluation.