Mediation is the process of settling a dispute with the guidance of an impartial third party. The parties can voluntarily enter mediation, or it can be court-ordered. Court-ordered mediation is less common for personal injury cases, but it can happen once the case is filed but before the parties go to trial. Many attorneys and judges like mediation because it allows the parties to openly discuss their case with the guidance of a disinterested third party while saving time and money.
A mediator is a neutral third party who reviews the facts of the case and guides discussions about settlement. In Rhode Island, certified mediators are required to have one of the following:
- At least 30 hours of mediation training
- Have at least two years of professional experience as a mediator
- Appointment as a mediator by a judicial or governmental body
Mediators will help the parties focus on the relevant facts so they don’t get bogged down debating issues that won’t impact the settlement. They may also ask questions to show the strengths and weaknesses of each party’s case.
Additionally, a mediator can propose potential resolutions for the parties to consider. However, mediators are not decision-makers. Therefore, they cannot make final determinations regarding your case.
The purpose of mediation is to allow for an open and honest conversation so that the parties can resolve their dispute. The parties will sign a confidentiality agreement before the mediation session begins. As a result, information shared during mediation is confidential unless the parties waive their confidentiality or if it falls into one of the few exceptions, such as:
- Threats of violence
- Admission of abuse
- Information about the furtherance of a crime
Mediation confidentiality means that anything said during mediation cannot be used against the parties during the lawsuit. So, for example, if the defendant makes a settlement offer during mediation, it cannot be used during the trial to show guilt or that they think the plaintiff deserves compensation.
Preparing for Mediation
You should prepare for mediation to improve your chances of it being successful. To prepare for mediation, you should do the following:
- Determine what is important to you in the dispute, such as the minimum compensation you are willing to accept.
- Gather and understand the information and records relevant to your case’s potential resolution.
- Discuss the mediation process and your attorney’s opening statement so that you have a better understanding of what to expect during mediation.
In addition to preparing for mediation, you do not want to enter mediation with a predetermined mindset. The success of mediation will depend on the parties being willing to compromise. An experienced attorney will help improve your chances of a successful mediation by preparing you for it.
Mediation begins with introductions of each party and the mediator. Then each party’s attorney will make their opening statements. During opening statements, the lawyer for each party will present their case and discuss relevant evidence. After opening statements, the mediator usually moves the parties to separate rooms. The mediator will then move from party to party to help them negotiate a settlement.
During the negotiation stage of mediation, the mediator’s job is to communicate each party’s position and settlement offers to the other side. They will also recommend ways to resolve the case and sometimes speak with the attorneys privately to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the case so that a settlement can be reached.
If you settle during mediation, the terms will need to be memorialized in a written document signed by each party. The settlement agreement is not binding until all parties sign the agreement. If someone has a change of heart after mediation before the settlement agreement is signed, the case may still need to go to trial.
What Happens if Mediation Doesn’t Work?
Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that you will come out of mediation with a settlement agreement. If you cannot reach a mutual resolution for your case during mediation, you must prepare to go to trial. However, failing to settle during mediation does not mean that a settlement agreement cannot be negotiated after mediation before trial. The only time limit on reaching a settlement agreement is that no settlement can be made after a judge or jury determines a verdict at trial.
Once the case is presented to a judge or jury and they decide, the decision is final. As a result, sometimes, parties who fail to reach an agreement at mediation choose to settle before the verdict to avoid the uncertainty of the potential judgment.
Contact a Personal Injury Attorney Today
If you were injured in an accident because of someone else’s negligence, an experienced attorney of The Law Offices of Ronald J. Resmini, Accident & Injury Lawyers, Ltd. could help you throughout your case, including during the mediation process. The Rhode Island personal injury attorneys of The Law Offices of Ronald J. Resmini, Accident & Injury Lawyers, Ltd. have the skill and knowledge to prepare you for and represent you during mediation. Contact us today to discuss your legal options during a free case evaluation. You can reach us at (401) 751-8855 or through our online contact form.