What Happens at Car Accident Mediation
UPDATED: June 19, 2018
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Car accident insurance mediation is a confidential, voluntary method of resolving disputes with an insurance company outside of court. Instead of a judge or jury, a neutral third party acts as the mediator to facilitate discussion between the parties. If mediation fails to resolve or settle the dispute, you can proceed to arbitration (another form of alternative dispute resolution), or go through the time and expense of a trial.
Preparing for Car Accident Insurance Mediation
You, the other party, and your lawyers will present your case to the mediator. This entails preparing a brief, which will include the costs of damages and desired settlement demands. The briefs are given to the parties and the mediator before the mediation takes place. This allows both the parties and the mediator to have full knowledge of the main issues of the case and what the negotiations will center around.
Preparing for mediation in a car accident case requires the same effort as preparing your insurance claim. You will need to present the evidence gathered at the crash site, point to sections of the insurance policy that promise you coverage, and be prepared to argue who was at fault for the car accident. The insuance company will likely be represented by attorneys throughout the car accident settlement mediation process, so it is a good idea to involve a lawyer if you have not done so already.
The Mediation Process in a Car Accident Case
Mediators have special training and often are attorneys themselves or retired judges. The mediator works to create an agreement by helping the parties identify issues and resolve them. A mediator does not tell the parties what to do, nor does he or she decide who wins and who loses. Control over the outcome of the case stays with you and the other participants.
The first step of mediation generally involves all parties and the mediator meeting together in a room. Here, the mediator will demonstrate her neutrality, give a general introductory statement about the case, the roles of the parties in the meditation, and discuss time limits, protocol, and mediation guidelines. Because she has read the mediation briefs of both sides, she may also summarize what she believes to be the main issues of contention between the parties.
After the introductory statements are made, the parties will have a chance to make their opening statements about the car accident, including how the incident occurred as viewed by each party. This will give both parties a chance to share their sides of the story to one another and the mediator. This also gives the mediator a chance to gauge the emotions of the parties. While these statements are often generally cordial, the plaintiff may be disappointed in the position the defense takes at this point. However, it is important to remember that these statements are made before any negotiations have begun, and many times the defense will become more flexible as the mediation progresses.
Negotiations and Mediator Role
After both parties make their statements, they will generally be split up into different rooms. From here on out, the parties will only speak to the mediator, and the mediator will float back and forth between the parties, relaying both information and suggestions on how to facilitate a compromise. It is not unusual for the defense to offer a very low settlement at first. However, the plaintiff should not be discouraged. Many times the defense will start low and be willing to come up as the negotiations continue.
Having said this, the plaintiff should be willing to compromise as well. Keep in mind that a voluntary mediation is designed to save both the plaintiff ad defense monies spent on trial expenses and further representation. While the plaintiff may believe that he will be able to get a higher amount through a jury, they must balance this amount with the costs that will precede this potential judgment. The plaintiff should also keep in mind that bringing a car accident case to trial is always a risk, and that a jury may award them far less than what they expect.
Cad Accident Mediation Outcomes
If the mediation is unsuccessful, neither party loses any rights, and you will simply continue the litigation. If mediation is successful, the mediator produces a settlement document, which is signed by all participants. The cost of mediation is typically shared by the parties. Mediation is growing in popularity as a less expensive but effective alternative to lawsuits. Also, unlike court, mediation agreements are kept private.