If you've been involved in a car accident and you're trying to collect compensation for your injuries and damages, chances are that the subject of mediation is going to come up at some point. Your lawyer might suggest that you consider it, or a judge might even order you to try it before the case goes to trial. There's a good reason for that – mediation is highly efficient at getting cases settled out of court. For car accidents, mediation has a success rate of about 85%. However, mediation also comes as something of a surprise to plaintiffs who have never experienced it before. If you're considering mediation for your personal injury case, take a look at what you can expect during the process.
You'll Be There For Awhile
There's no telling how long a mediation will take – it all depends on how close you and the other party are when you walk into the building. If the two of you have similar settlement amounts in mind, it may only take a few hours. If you're far apart and neither party is willing to compromise much, you could be there all day, or you could even have to return multiple times before either a settlement is reached, or the mediation is declared unsuccessful.
Since you don't know how long you'll be there, it's best to plan for a long day. You may want to bring a book, or some other thing to entertain yourself with during the time that you're in the room alone. You won't be talking with the mediator the whole time that you're there. After an initial introduction, you and the other party will be split up into separate rooms, and the mediator will go back and forth between the two rooms and talk to each of you privately. This is a mediation technique called caucusing.
You'll Hear A Lot of Legalese
If you haven't hired a lawyer and you've been pursuing the case on your own, you should definitely hire one before going into mediation. During the settlement negotiations, you'll hear lots of legal terms that you may not recognize. For example, the defense might make a conditional offer – an offer that hinges on you agreeing to certain conditions, like confidentiality.
Having a good lawyer on your side means that you'll have someone to explain the legal terms that you don't understand, and someone who can tell you whether the conditions that you're being asked to agree to are fair or not.
The First Offer Will Be Low
It's not unusual to be somewhat offended by the first offer you receive – it may be painfully low. Hearing a very low offer can also make some plaintiffs nervous – you may feel as if you're never going to reach an agreement, if that's their starting offer. However, you should try not to let it rattle you.
If you've ever haggled over an item at the flea market, you should be able to grasp the reasoning behind the low offer. They're trying to set the starting point as low as they can. You, on the other hand, should be trying to set the bar as high as possible. Over time, their number will go up and yours will go down, and both sides will start to seem more reasonable than the other side. Just don't be tempted to sell yourself short in order to hurry up and end the negotiations. You can your attorney should decide on the absolute minimum that you'll accept, and don't let yourself be talked into anything lower than that. Remember, it's not required that you settle within a certain number of hours, and if you can't settle, you can still go to court. There's no need to undercut yourself just to put an end to the mediation.
Overall, mediation is a useful tool for many lawsuit plaintiffs. Ask your personal injury attorneys if mediation is a possibility in your personal injury case.