If a potential defendant in a dispute is inclined to settle a case prior to a complaint being filed, it's typically done in negotiations between the parties (or more commonly the parties' attorneys) and mediation with a paid neutral mediator is rarely part of the process.
If it is agreeable to both parties to hire a mediator, that can happen at almost any time during the course of the dispute.
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I almost never mediate anything. I prefer to run the case through the court system. Many counties on Oregon now have an arbitration process for small cases and the cost of the arbitrator is kept rather low. Alternatively once you are in the court system you can also try to "mediate" with an experienced trial Judge acting as your settlement conference judge/mediator. It's free if you do a a settlement conference via a trial court Judge (although you do pay a filing fee) The nice thing about being in the court as an active case is that both parties know if they can't agree the case will continue to trial so it gets done at some point. You also have formal tools to get discovery so you can get information you may need to help decide if you should settle or not. You can still mediate if you want but I only mediated once in a divorce because the other side insisted - the mediator was charging like $250 an hour and we were there all day and still didn't resolve the issues. Each side had to pay like $1,000.00 to the mediator. We eventually settled the case but I probably won't every use a mediator again. Most mediators are retired lawyers or judges that have taken special classes on how to resolve conflicts. You can talk to an attorney that can probably give you an idea as to what would be a good settlement offer and the attorney could make an offer for you. Again, not a big fan of mediation although it sounds good in theory. Consult with an attorney before you go ahead with this. You may have other better options. Hard to say via Avvo since we can't really flush you all the facts here.
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Most civil disputes don't go through mediation, and especially not before the complaint is filed. In fact, I think that particular scenario is so uncommon that there's really no way to say how long it takes for that sort of dispute to enter mediation.
Mediation only happens when both sides want to participate. If both sides do want mediation, then both sides simply need to agree on a mediator and then schedule a date.
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