Mediation seems to confuse a lot of people. But really a mediation is just a settlement conference. During mediation, parties in a lawsuit and their attorneys sit down with a neutral third-party mediator. Mediators are usually retired judges. The mediator goes back and forth between the parties and tries to help the parties broker a settlement deal to resolve their case. Nothing in mediation is forced; the parties can voluntarily enter into an agreement or not. If the parties cannot agree on a settlement, the mediation ends and the case continues to trial.
Why should parties in a lawsuit attend mediation?
Attorneys usually advise their clients to attend mediation, even if the clients do not believe a deal can be reached. There is always a chance the parties could walk away from mediation with a great settlement that ends the case. Litigants invest a lot of time, money, and emotional capital into a lawsuit. If the case proceeds to trial, the parties could risk losing everything. Most cases are winner-takes-all; one party wins big and the other party loses big. Even the strongest cases carry a hefty amount of risk.
In addition to the chance of obtaining a great settlement during mediation, each party will learn a lot about their own case during mediation. Information and facts will be presented at mediation which will shed light on the strengths and weaknesses of your case. The mediator will discuss the pros and cons of the case with each party, so litigants can get a more realistic view of how likely their case is to prevail from an expert outsider’s perspective. Even if the case doesn’t settle, mediation is beneficial because the parties learn more about the weaknesses of their case and then have a chance to mitigate those weaknesses prior to trial.
Litigants will likely be required by the judge presiding over their case to attend a mediation at some point prior to trial. It has been estimated that over 90 percent of civil cases are resolved through settlement, either during mediation or prior to trial. Judges often won’t set a trial date until the parties attend mediation. Therefore, mediation is not only useful for resolving your case, it can also increase your chances of obtaining a trial date.
If your lawyer suggests mediation, don’t fret. It is a useful tool that will bring you many benefits whether you settle your case or not.