A settlement reached during mediation is only legally binding if the parties involved in the personal injury case agree to the terms, sign a contract, and file it with the court. Without a written agreement, enforcing a settlement isn’t possible.
Mediation is a type of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) frequently used in personal injury lawsuits. It’s a method of settling a case without going to trial. Sometimes, attending mediation is mandatory. The judge might order it before proceeding to trial.
Either party can request mediation to try to resolve the case if there isn’t a court order. Once both sides sign a formal mediation agreement, it’s legally enforceable. However, a judge can overturn it under certain circumstances. They can also impose penalties if someone violates the terms of the settlement.
How Personal Injury Mediation Works
Once all parties are present, the mediator will introduce themselves. They will confirm that everyone participating in mediation knows each other and each person’s role. The plaintiff and their attorney, the defense lawyer, and sometimes the claims adjuster attend. The defendant might not be there. However, they might show up if they want to attend or if a court order requires their presence.
The mediator will pass around a confidentiality agreement after introductions. Everyone must sign it, agreeing to keep everything discussed during mediation confidential. It allows all parties to relax and speak freely during settlement negotiations. No one has to worry about whether the opposing side will use what they say against them in court.
The plaintiff’s attorney will start mediation with an opening statement. They can discuss the facts of the case and talk about evidence, such as videos, photos, and medical records. The insurance adjuster, defense attorney, and mediator can determine the strengths and weaknesses of the case and what a jury might decide at trial.
The defense lawyer also makes an opening statement to present their side of the case. They can discuss the evidence they found, explain why they believe a low settlement is justified, and try to convince the plaintiff’s lawyer to agree to the offer on the table.
Opposing parties separate after opening statements. They will spend the rest of the mediation in different rooms. The mediator will go back and forth, obtaining information from each side and presenting possible settlements and ideas to the other.
The mediator’s job isn’t to settle the case for both parties. They can’t make decisions or enter legal judgments. They will likely point out strengths and weaknesses in either side’s case, and they can offer suggestions on how to resolve the matter.
Is a Settlement Guaranteed During Mediation?
No. Predicting how mediation will end is impossible. It is one of the methods to settle a personal injury lawsuit. However, it isn’t always successful. Reaching a settlement could happen if opposing parties are willing to compromise.
If one or both sides don’t want to compromise, mediation likely won’t work. Everyone must be willing to work in good faith to negotiate a settlement that benefits both the plaintiff and the insurance company.
When Mediation Is Not Legally Binding
Typically, judges won’t overturn written and signed mediation agreements unless extenuating factors exist. That’s because the parties in a personal injury lawsuit put time and effort into discussing and agreeing to the terms of the contract.
However, a judge might overturn an agreement if executing it involved circumstances such as:
- One or multiple parties signed the contract under duress or undue influence
- Either side misrepresented the facts of the case
- Someone entered into the agreement by mistake
- Any party wasn’t mentally competent to understand the purpose of mediation and the consequences of reaching a settlement
Benefits of Settling During Mediation
Mediation can be beneficial for numerous reasons, such as:
- You’ll have some control over the outcome of your case instead of allowing a jury to decide
- The information discussed remains confidential
- Mediation is cheaper than continuing to litigate the matter
- You’ll have more flexibility in creating the terms of an agreement
- You’ll save time on legal proceedings by wrapping up the case in a few hours instead of spending months or a year or more preparing for trial
Get Help with Your Upcoming Mediation
Determining whether mediation is the most appropriate approach to your case requires legal guidance. You need someone with experience to advise you of your options and the likely result of a trial if you don’t settle.
At Jurewitz Law Group Injury & Accident Lawyers, our San Diego personal injury lawyers can help you navigate the complex legal process. We will protect your rights and fight for the maximum compensation you deserve. Call us at (619) 233-5020 today for your free consultation to learn more about what we can do for you.