Mediation in Personal Injury Cases
Mediation is a popular form of dispute resolution in Florida. Its use has grown with endorsement by the legislature and the Florida Supreme Court. It can be used as a prelitigation settlement tool; however, once a lawsuit is filed, mediation is usually mandatory.
How Does Mediation Work?When mediation is court- ordered, any communications made in the context of the mediation are privileged from disclosure and are inadmissible as evidence. Because of the informal nature of the mediation process, it is a good practice to provide all pertinent information to the mediator in advance of the mediation, either through copies of documents or in a summary specifically drafted for the occasion that outlines all relevant issues. Before mediation, it is likely that the adjuster’s only contact with the case is through the receipt of medical records, deposition summaries, and opinion letters from the defense attorney.
Who is Present at Mediation?Those present at the mediation are typically the Plaintiff (the injured party), the Plaintiff’s attorney, the Defendant’s (the one who caused the injury) attorney, and the Defendant’s insurance adjuster (the one who makes the final decision as to whether to settle the case). Many times, the Defendant does not come to the mediation because it is ultimately up to his/her insurance company to make the decision as to whether or not to settle the case. The final person who attends the mediation is the mediator. The mediator must be certified and is usually a retired attorney or retired judge. It is best to find a mediator who has practiced in the area of personal injury so that he/she has a better understanding of the area of law.
How Long Does a Mediation Take?A successful mediation can take anywhere from a few hours or a full day. In our experience, the average mediation time is between 4-6 hours. The process takes time because the mediator will be meeting privately with the parties in separate rooms in order to gather information about the case. The mediator will deliver offers and demands back and forth between all interested parties.
What Happens After Mediation?If you resolve the case at mediation, you draft a settlement and sign it the same day. The agreement is enforceable. There’s paperwork to do to close out the case. You may need to type the agreement up officially for the court to sign it an enter it into the court record. However, when you reach an agreement at mediation, you can breathe a sigh of relief and look forward to collecting your judgment. If you don’t reach an agreement at mediation, the case stays on track for trial.