Car Accident Mediation (What happens?)

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 14, 2021

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The least you should know…

  • Mediation is an alternative to litigation and is an informal process that is confidential. All parties must agree to participate in mediation.
  • What happens at mediation for auto accidents is that all sides present their positions at the mediation and then the mediator engages with the parties separately and tries to negotiate a resolution.
  • Be prepared to compromise because mediation is not about declaring a winner and a loser, but about reaching an amicable settlement.
  • Settlement offers and mediator recommendations are not binding on the parties.
  • Mediation is a great opportunity to reach a settlement with your insurance company and avoid spending significant time and money on litigation.

Car accident insurance mediation is a confidential, voluntary method of resolving disputes with an insurance company outside of court. What happens at a mediation for a car accident is that instead of a judge or jury deciding who wins or loses, a neutral third party acts as the mediator to facilitate settlement discussion between the parties.

Mediation is not binding, and you may be wondering: is mediation is considered a legal proceeding at all? The answer is no: mediation is an attempt to settle prior to legal proceedings. If the parties don’t settle, they can continue the dispute through arbitration or trial.

The insurance company will be represented by attorneys during a car accident settlement mediation process, so it is a good idea to involve a car accident lawyer if you have not done so already. You can start your search for an experienced auto accident lawyer by entering your ZIP code into our search tool. Read on for more car accident mediation tips.

Preparing for Car Accident Insurance Mediation

If you’re not familiar with the process, you may be asking: “What can I expect at a mediation hearing?”

Mediation is not like a hearing where the parties present witness testimony and other evidence to prove their case. Think of mediations like a multiple-party meeting with breakout sessions to privately discuss options and make proposals. The cost of mediation is typically shared by the parties.

So, what happens during a settlement mediation? Generally, you and the other party will present your sides of the case to the neutral mediator. This entails preparing a brief, which will include your calculation of the costs of damages and your best car accident 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 to mediate disputes with an insurance company about a car accident requires the same effort as filing your car insurance claim. You should be prepared to talk about 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.

If car accident injuries are involved, you may ask: “How does personal injury mediation work?” Mediation for auto accidents works the same way as personal injury mediation works. As part of your personal injury mediation strategies, you or your lawyer should research personal injury mediation statistics to include in your private discussions with the mediator.

Since mediation is not a formal trial, you might be curious about what to wear to car accident mediation. A suit and tie or dress is not necessary, but avoid wearing anything too casual or revealing. Mediations can last all day, so dress for comfort. 

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. So the answer to the question of “will my case settle at mediation?” depends a lot on you. Control over the outcome of the case stays with you and the other participants.

Here’s some car accident mediation so you know what to expect at the mediation.

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 issue 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.

Given all the variations in car accident insurance claims, there is no average settlement offer during mediation. 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.

Car Accident Mediation Outcomes

If the mediation is unsuccessful, neither party loses any rights. They can elect to pursue arbitration, another form of alternative dispute resolution, or they can continue the litigation by filing a court lawsuit.

What happens after a mediation settlement?

If mediation is successful, the mediator produces a document called a settlement agreement and general release, which is signed by all participants. The settlement agreement will state how long it will take to get a settlement after mediation, but if the payment of money is part of the settlement, the document usually requires payment, in whole or in part, within a few weeks.

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Mediation is growing in popularity as a quicker, cheaper, private, and effective alternative to lawsuits. If the parties agree to mediate, you can expect a relatively informative process, which includes the option to submit written briefs before the mediation.

What happens at the car accident mediation is that all sides get to present their cases to a neutral mediator, who then works privately with each party to try to broker a compromise and ultimate car accident mediation settlement.

If you’re weighing the pros and cons of mediation for an auto accident, a car accident attorney can help you decide if mediation is right for your case. Put your ZIP code into our search tool to find an experienced auto accident lawyer near you.

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