Mediation. What you need to know.
Mediations are an increasingly popular alternative dispute resolution (ADR) process. Mediation is a process by which parties in a claim or a lawsuit come together for a meeting in which they try to resolve their differences with the help of a “mediator.” The mediator and the parties work together
What is a mediation?For people who are more familiar with court ordered settlement conferences, mediations are similar to a settlement conference; however, they usually last longer with the parties more involved in the process. Mediation is non-binding. That means that the mediator has no authority to render a decision. It's up to the parties themselves -- with the mediator's help -- to work informally toward their own agreement. An arbitrator, on the other hand, conducts a contested hearing between the parties and then, acting as a judge, issues a legally binding decision. Arbitration resembles a court proceeding: Each side calls witnesses, presents evidence, and makes arguments. Although arbitration has traditionally been used to resolve labor and commercial disputes, it is growing in popularity as a quicker and less expensive alternative to going to court.
What happens at a mediation?Mediations can vary a great deal depending upon the style of the mediator, attorneys and the nature of the case. Most mediation cases begin with a "joint session" where all of the parties, attorneys and insurance adjusters meet in one conference room with the mediator.
The mediator describes the process that will be followed and then each side has an opportunity to present an opening statement where they present their point of view of the case to the other side, and to the mediator. In most cases, after the opening statement, the parties separate and move to *breakout rooms* where the parties can speak privately to the mediator. The mediator shuttles back and forth between the rooms with demands and offers, trying to bring the parties to a common ground.
If there is a joint session, when it is finished the parties and their attorneys go to separate rooms and the mediator shuffles back and forth from the rooms discussing important issues in the case and conveying settlement demands and offers.
Typical mediation cases, such as auto accident claims, are usually resolved after a half-day or, at most, a full day of mediation. Cases with multiple parties often last longer: Add at least an hour of mediation time for each additional party.