Personal injury lawsuits can take a great deal of time to work through the courts, leaving victims in limbo. That’s why, for many such cases, mediation offers an attractive alternative to traditional litigation. In Cook County and elsewhere in Illinois, most major civil lawsuits are eligible for mediation. The attorneys of Hale & Monico represent clients at mediation, and we can explain the benefits it may have in your case.
Mediation is an out-of-court process by which the parties and their respective legal counsel meet with a third party neutral known as a mediator. The mediator is not a judge, so he or she cannot make decisions for the parties. Instead, the mediator’s role is to talk about the parties through the claims and defenses made in your personal injury case. The ultimate goal is to arrive at a settlement.
The Mediation Process
Unlike court, mediation is private and confidential. At the first mediation conference, the parties and their attorneys will sign a confidentiality agreement. By keeping the mediation confidential, the two sides can have candid discussions through the mediator. In court, the parties would be constrained by rules of evidence and civil procedure. But those restrictions don’t apply to mediation.
The parties will present their respective arguments, talk about the evidence, and give their version of what caused your personal injury. You will also explain the extent of your damages and what would constitute a fair settlement. If your case ultimately goes to court, presenting this kind of information will be more complicated. You may need to call upon expert witnesses or have records introduced that strictly follow the rules of evidence. Mediation presents a more relaxed atmosphere for the two sides to openly exchange information.
The mediator also meets privately with the parties to discuss their positions in more detail. While the entire mediation process is confidential, the information discussed in these sessions can also be held in confidence. During these meetings, the mediator typically asks tough questions about the accident and injuries. The intention is not to be difficult, but to challenge your arguments and force you to consider the risks of going to trial. Both sides will be questioned in this way. The mediator will also use this information to explore ways to possibly compromise and settle the outstanding issues in the case.
At some point in the process, the mediator or the parties will suggest ways to compromise the case. Offers and counteroffers will usually be exchanged as issues and dollar amounts are narrowed down. If all matters are resolved, the parties will sign a Memorandum of Agreement indicating that the outcome was a success. The terms of the agreement may be filed in court, or they can be kept confidential. A mediated agreement is considered a contract under law, so both parties will be bound by it.
Mediations have a relatively high success rate. They can help both sides save time and money and avoid the stress of a trial. Even if your mediation is not successful, however, it can help you and your lawyer refine your arguments and prepare for court.
The attorneys of Hale & Monico are committed to achieving the results you deserve after a personal injury. Give us a call today to learn more about mediation and how we can use it in your case.