What You Should Know About Mediation in Florida
Very few auto accident claims are heard by a jury anymore. In fact, even experienced trial lawyers are beginning to see a trend toward alternative dispute resolution in the past 20 years, which means there’s a good chance if you have an injury claim, you’ll end up resolving it out of court. While there are many pros and cons, it’s important to be prepared.
One of the most common forms of resolving disputes in injury cases these days is mediation. At Roman & Roman, PA, our Clearwater personal injury attorneys can help you with your injury case from start to finish, including mediation.
What is Mediation?
Mediation is an informal process, by which an experienced mediator assists the parties in reaching an amicable settlement agreement. During a mediation, the mediator will go back and forth between the parties and work to help them understand the strengths and weaknesses of their respective positions, while also trying to find common ground. During a mediation, the parties are under no legal obligation to reach an agreement, but it’s best if everyone comes to the process with an open mind and willingness to be reasonable and fair.
Who is the Mediator?
In Florida, most mediators are either very experienced attorneys (often retired from practice) or retired judges who have experience with personal injury claims. The parties generally agree upon a mediator and sign paperwork agreeing to mediate the dispute. It is very important to understand the role of the mediator. Here are some things the mediator can and cannot do:
- Mediators can keep conversations confidential and not share things with the other side
- Mediators can help to point out flaws and weaknesses with each side’s theories
- Mediators can ask questions and encourage people to see things in a different light
- Mediators can discuss their own experiences and even suggest possible settlements
On the other hand, here are a few things mediators cannot do:
- Mediators are not acting as judges, so they cannot make a ruling
- Mediators cannot render an official court decision
- Mediators cannot be subpoenaed to testify in the case
- Mediators should not render legal advice to the parties or take sides
Limitations on Mediation
One major benefit of mediation is that any discussions, demands, settlement offers, or arguments are not admissible in court. This means even if you and your attorney are willing to stipulate to certain concessions for the purpose of reaching a settlement, the other side cannot later use these discussions against you at trial if the case does not settle. Of course, this also means that you cannot use their arguments, discussion points and offers as evidence at trial either.
As a final note, keep in mind that mediations cost money. Your attorney will have to pay a portion of the mediator’s fee, and the other side will usually cover part of the fee. If mediation is successful, your attorney will be entitled to reimbursement from your settlement. If the case does not settle, then you will still have to go to trial. Therefore, there are strategic considerations.
To discuss whether mediation is right for your case, call Roman & Roman, P.A. today, and schedule a free consultation with one of our skilled injury lawyers.
We have four area offices in Clearwater, Tampa & Hudson, Florida.