A mediator acts as a go-between for people in a dispute. Mediation takes place between a plaintiff and defendant before they go to trial.
Most courts require mediation, and in most cases, the two parties might be required to go to a mediator before a lawsuit is filed. Mediation can be an effective means of settling disputes since a trial can be expensive and time-consuming.
In a personal injury case, the plaintiff is normally an injured party and the defendant is either an insurance company, an individual who caused the plaintiff injury, or a company whose negligence caused the plaintiff injury.
How a Personal Injury Case Happens
When a person is injured in an accident that is the fault of another party, the injured person will file an insurance claim. When an insurance claim is filed, the insurance agency will ask for copies of all the medical bills related to the accident, receipts from any medications purchased, and proof of lost wages.
After the injured person sends in all of their bills and documentation, the insurance company will investigate if the injured party is entitled to compensation. An insurance adjuster will decide if the claim is valid, and if it is, they will offer the injured party a settlement amount.
The first offer the insurance company makes will be fairly low in most cases. If that happens, the injured person should hire an attorney to negotiate with the insurance company. If they cannot settle, then the injured person’s attorney will file a lawsuit.
The insurance company will be served, more negotiations will take place, and if they still can’t reach an agreement, the lawyers will prepare to go to trial.
The case will then enter the discovery phase, where each party in the lawsuit can request information and documentation from the other party. Once both parties have the same set of facts, they will sit down with a mediator.
The Process of Mediation
Preliminary Meeting and Introductions
On the day of mediation, the plaintiff and their attorney will go over the facts of the case. The meeting will include the plaintiff and their attorney, the insurance company’s lawyer, a claims adjuster for the insurance company, and the mediator. The person responsible for the accident may be there as well.
If the defendant has additional insurance or what is known as an umbrella policy, a representative from the insurance company that provides the umbrella policy may be there as well to make sure the defendant’s primary company pays, so they won’t have to.
Before anybody makes an argument or presents facts, everyone in the meeting will sign a confidentiality agreement. What is discussed in mediation cannot be brought up in trial because people will sometimes admit to things that they would not if they were under oath.
Neither side of mediation can disclose the settlement amount offered in this meeting or why it was accepted or rejected.
The plaintiff’s attorney will present their argument first. They will give an opening statement, and then present all the evidence they have to the mediator.
The defense attorney will then give an opening statement, and make an argument for why their client should not have to pay as much as the plaintiff would like them to pay.
The Mediator Makes a Decision
Once each side is finished making their arguments, the mediator will put the two parties into separate rooms. They will talk to each side and listen to their reaction to what the other side had to say. The mediator will tell each side what they believe are the strengths and weaknesses of their case and will relay messages from one side of the case to another. They will do this repeatedly until a settlement is reached.
A plaintiff should never tell the defense that they are eager to settle and get a case over with. They should always let the defense know they are ready to go to court if they have to.
It is the mediator’s job to help them settle out of court. If the two parties do not reach a deal at the end of mediation, they will go to court.
Most personal injury claims are settled out of court, but if you do end up having to sue the person or entity that hurt you, you should have a trained attorney represent you. An attorney will know how to negotiate with insurance companies, and they will have experience arguing in front of mediators and judges.
If you have been injured in an accident, your number one priority should be getting better, but you also need to recover economically. To learn more about mediation and learn more about 1-800-Injured, click here.
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