Not every case goes to trial. In fact, very few personal injury cases go in front of a jury. In most cases, a settlement is obtained. If a settlement cannot be reached through casual negotiation, then the case will be mediated between the parties. In SC, mediation is mandatory in all common pleas civil actions.
What Is Mediation?
Mediation is a type of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) that is an informal process. During a mediation, a neutral third party (called a mediator) facilitates settlement discussion between the parties. The process is confidential, and any information discussed at the mediation, including settlement offers, cannot be revealed in court if the case does ultimately go to trial.
The mediator cannot make decisions for you during a mediation. They do not determine facts or analyze laws. Instead, they are expert communicators who help both parties reach a fair agreement that is acceptable to everyone involved.
Is Mediation Voluntary?
Mediation is mandatory in all SC civil cases in state court.That does not mean that you are required to accept a settlement offer. However, you must make a good faith effort to reach an agreement.
If you take part in a mediation, you do not lose your right to a trial by a judge or jury. If you do not reach a settlement during the mediation, you can continue to trial.
What Happens During a Mediation?
There are several stages of the mediation process in a personal injury case.
Meeting Everyone Involved
You will likely begin in one room where all parties meet one another. This will include anyone who was involved in the accident, insurance company representatives, and attorneys. You will also get to know the mediator and learn about their qualifications as a settlement expert.
Signing a Confidentiality Agreement
You will be expected to sign a confidentiality agreement to ensure all discoveries are kept at the mediation table. The information you share during the mediation cannot be used against you later if you go to trial.
Each side will be able to make opening statements about their case. The attorney representing the victim usually goes first, followed by the defense attorney. Opening statements can sometimes be contentious, so they may be avoided altogether.
Separating into Different Rooms
The parties will move into different rooms and discuss the amount of money they are willing to settle the case for. The mediator may take that amount to each of the sides individually. If there is a large difference between the numbers, the mediator may request further statements of damages and liability from both sides.
Reaching an Agreement
Once both sides agree on a settlement amount, the parties return to a room together. They will sign a document with all the terms and conditions of the settlement. The lawyers will likely need to finalize the documents after the mediation and file it with court later. Once the plaintiff signs the settlement agreement, the case is closed.
Going to Trial
If no settlement is reached, then the mediator will file a statement with the court telling them that both parties made a good faith effort to reach an agreement. Your case will be set for trial.
How to Prepare for a Personal Injury Mediation
It’s important to be properly prepared for a mediation as you would for a trial. Your attorney will need to know all your losses, including medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages. You will need to determine how much your case is worth.
It’s important to focus on the number that you want (the maximum amount of compensation you could get) as well as the lowest number you’ll accept. In many cases, you will have to reach an agreeable amount somewhere in the middle.
How Does Mediation Benefit Me?
Mediation benefits both parties, but especially the plaintiff. Some of the advantages that a personal injury mediation offer includes:
- It saves time instead of going through a lengthy trial process
- It allows you to have a confidential settlement amount
- You can reveal all of the facts of the case without them being held against you
- It is cost-effective and you will likely pay fewer costs
- It is more personal
- You can tell your story
- It is flexible and can happen according to your schedule
- Both parties are in charge
You have many more options during a mediation than you would in a strict court atmosphere.
Contact Lawyer Venus Poe
Attorney Venus Poe has handled countless mediations and successfully settles claims consistently. She understands that your goal is to get the most money possible as quickly as possible. Mediation is often the best way to do that. However, if the defendant refuses to make a reasonable settlement offer, Venus Poe is not afraid to go to court.
Call us today at (864) 689-3382 for a free consultation to learn about your options.