While most personal injury claims eventually settle, the process is rarely simple. During your claim, your car accident lawyers will negotiate with the insurance companies, demanding fair compensation for your injuries. However, these negotiations can sometimes stall because the insurer is being unreasonable.
When this happens, the experienced injury lawyers at Crosley Law often recommend mediation. In this article, we discuss why mediation and other forms of alternative dispute resolution can serve as powerful tools during an injury claim, and we also explain what crash victims should expect during the mediation process.
What Is Litigation?
Litigation is another name for a lawsuit. When you and the insurance company can’t resolve a dispute, you have the option of filing a complaint and demanding that a judge or jury review the case and issue a decision. That may sound simple, but in reality, litigation is complicated and time-consuming.
At Crosley Law, we typically break injury claims into three stages:
- Pre-litigation: Your car crash lawyer meets with you, investigates the wreck, collects evidence, consults with experts, calculates your damages, and starts to negotiate with the insurance adjuster.
- Litigation: You file your lawsuit, participate in a legal process called “discovery” where both sides share evidence and information, take sworn testimony (depositions), and ramp up settlement negotiations.
- Trial and appeal: If you can’t agree on a settlement, your personal injury lawyer will present your case at trial. A jury or judge will issue a decision; if either side disagrees with the verdict, they can file an appeal.
Settlement negotiations can (and will) continue at every stage of this process. We’ve had personal injury lawsuits settle after a trial’s opening statements or while the parties were presenting their cases.
What Is Alternative Dispute Resolution?
Throughout your claim, you and the insurance company will probably try to settle the case out of court. Sometimes, informal negotiations can resolve your issues and result in a fair settlement. But in many cases, even the most aggressive and sophisticated negotiation strategies don’t work, either because the defendant is being unreasonable or because the plaintiff lets their emotions take over.
When negotiations stall, your injury lawyer may suggest an alternative dispute resolution method such as mediation. In some cases, a judge will even issue a court order, demanding that you participate.
What Is the Difference Between Negotiation and Mediation?
During negotiation, your injury lawyer and the insurance adjuster will go back and forth, discussing your car crash claim’s settlement value. Usually, one side will start the negotiations by either issuing a settlement offer or a demand letter. In a demand letter, the victim and their loved ones ask for a specific settlement figure.
Then, the other side responds. This process repeats itself over and over until both parties reach an agreement or decide to go trial.
In many ways, mediation is very similar to negotiation. However, the victim and the negligent driver’s insurance company are joined by another party: the mediator. Mediators are specially trained, neutral professionals (often lawyers) who guide the parties through their discussions. The mediator’s goal is to settle the case efficiently and fairly without a trial.
Mediators typically look for common ground and try to keep the tone business-like and nonadversarial. Sometimes, the mediator will even act as a voice of reason, pointing out weaknesses in the arguments of the insurance company or victim if either side is being unreasonable or unrealistic.
Personal Injury Mediation: What to Expect
For some car crash victims, mediation is the first time they really participate in the negotiation process. When you agree to mediation, your lawyers will set a date with the other side and select a mediator. Here’s what to expect during a mediation session.
On the date of your mediation, you may meet the insurance company’s representatives at a neutral location, like the mediator’s office. You’ll probably start with all the parties in the same conference room. Your lawyer will have a chance to present your legal arguments and your settlement demand. Then, the defense attorney will do the same, trying to pick holes into your case. The mediator will probably ask both sides questions as well.
Next, the parties will break off into separate rooms or offices. The mediator will meet with you and lawyer privately to discuss your case. Then, the mediator will go and speak with the insurance company’s representatives.
During these meetings, the mediator will discuss your case with you and ask you about the value of your personal injury case. They will probably go back and forth between your conference room and the insurance company’s room, passing on messages, asking questions, and working with you to reach an agreement.
While mediation is one of the most popular forms of alternative dispute resolution, it’s not the only one. In rare cases, you may participate in arbitration instead.
In some ways, arbitration looks like a trial; your injury lawyer will make an opening statement and present evidence. However, instead of a judge or jury making a decision, a panel of arbitrators will review your case. Like a mediator, an arbitrator is a specially trained, neutral professional who is paid for their services. Based on each party’s evidence and arguments, the arbitrators will make a decision. If you’re involved in binding arbitration, you typically must abide by this decision. If your arbitration is non-binding and you don’t agree with the decision, you may continue litigating your claims.
Arbitration is most common when you’ve entered a contract with the at-fault party. For example, Uber’s user agreement contains an arbitration clause. If your case requires arbitration, contact an experienced injury lawyer immediately. Arbitration is a highly technical process, and victims should not try to handle these proceedings on their own.
After Mediation, What Is the Next Step?
Mediation is always non-binding. So, while a mediator can strongly encourage settlement, they cannot force either you or the insurance company to settle out of court. You always have the option of going to trial.
At trial, you will have a chance to present evidence, witnesses, and legal arguments supporting your claim. The insurance company will try to weaken your arguments using their own experts, witnesses, documents, and legal theories. In the end, either the judge or jury will issue a decision about your case.
The trial process involves a level of risk, but it’s sometimes necessary to take a case to trial. At Crosley Law, we carefully prepare our jury presentations, using cutting-edge technology, data from focus groups, and other tools to strengthen our clients’ claims. We also continue our negotiations with the insurance company, and it’s not uncommon for cases to settle in the middle of a trial.
Why Does Crosley Law Encourage Mediation and ADR?
In short, mediation works. At Crosley Law, we’ve discovered that mediation can speed up our clients’ claims. Mediation is also less stressful and more cost-effective than a jury trial. A well-built mediation presentation and strategy, combined with direction from a respected mediator, can encourage insurance adjusters to be reasonable and offer a fair settlement.
Because we know the power of mediation and ADR, we take it as seriously as a trial. We use all the information we’ve found during our investigation, depositions, and the discovery process to build persuasive arguments and settlement demands that are grounded in the facts and law. That’s why we’ve earned a track record of success in mediation.
“Because we know the power of mediation and ADR, we take it as seriously as a trial. We use all the information we’ve found during our investigation, depositions, and the discovery process to build persuasive arguments and settlement demands that are grounded in the facts and law. That’s why we’ve earned a track record of success in mediation.”
For example, in 2018, we recovered Texas’ largest mediated settlement. Our client was a pedestrian who had been hit by a negligent delivery driver. He suffered serious injuries, including a TBI (traumatic brain injury). However, that didn’t stop the insurance company from trying to blame our client for his injuries and minimize his injury’s impact.
When it became clear that the insurance adjuster wasn’t going to be reasonable, we began preparing for mediation. Our team worked with a trial consultant and several jury focus groups, refining our arguments and gauging our presentation’s impact. All of our research, hard work, and attention to detail paid off. After mediation, we settled our client’s case for $9 million. After paying his medical bills, attorney’s fees and expenses, he received $5.2 million.
This is only one example of how we’ve helped our clients with mediation. We’ve also used similar tactics to recover fair settlements for clients who suffered injuries in bicycle and truck accidents.
Crosley Law: A Sophisticated Approach to Personal Injury Mediation
If you have questions about a personal injury claim or need help negotiating a reasonable settlement, the experienced injury attorneys at Crosley Law can help you understand your options. Our team is known for our attention to detail, aggressive strategies, and exceptional client experience.
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.