Personal Injury Settlement Conferences Work.
Having practiced personal injury litigation law my entire career, I have learned how important it is to pursue a resolution away from a courtroom, and personal injury settlements do work.
Settlement conferences (also known as mediations) work. They give the parties a chance to advocate their case to an experienced, prepared mediator who tries to guide them to a settlement – or at least closer together.
To prepare the mediator, the parties submit in advance their side of the story through memoranda and exhibits. A thorough memo can give the mediator the tools needed to understand the thorny issues and disputes preventing settlement.
Generally the parties don’t start the settlement conference in a joint opening, “meet-and-greet” session. Too many times fighting words or insults are exchanged, and the parties become even more polarized.
Instead, the parties are assigned to their own individual rooms, and the mediator goes from room to room via ‘shuttle diplomacy.’ Not only are offers exchanged, but evidence and perceptions the mediator gleans from the memos, lawyers, and the parties themselves.
Personal injury victims want and need to be heard. They want a mediator who truly understands and empathizes with what they have suffered. They need to vent and get everything off their chest. They also need a sense of victory, that the wrong they suffered was made right.
An effective mediator will listen yet remind both parties of the risks should they not reach a settlement. A trial is usually the next step if a settlement is not achieved. Mediations are confidential, and discussions held or offers traded are inadmissible should the matter make it to a jury trial. That way, the parties can speak freely during the mediation.
As funny is it may sound, the sign of a good settlement is often that both sides are mad. One side thinks it paid too much, and the other side thinks it didn’t get enough. By settling, however, you can control the destiny of your case.
Why do a settlement conference? For starters, you must try it before most judges will set a trial date for your case. More importantly, a settlement conference gives you a chance to work towards a solution that could end the risk and uncertainty of letting a jury make the decision for you. In a mediation, everyone knows and cares so much more about the case and the parties than a jury ever would. Additional benefits of mediation include avoiding the substantial savings in the time and cost of a jury trial.
I have never participated in a settlement conference that was a waste of time. That does not mean, however, that every one of my settlement conferences have resulted in a settlement. Even when we haven’t settled, we have made progress and learned the independent impressions of the mediator, who understands personal injury claims without the bias of being one of the litigants.
Effective lawyers will spend the time to make sure their clients understand the process and are prepared. They know their clients and what they really need. Sometimes having their case resolved is more important than getting every last penny from the defendant.
The best advice for any client heading into a settlement conference is to keep an open mind and understand their opponents’ position. A good lawyer will understand the strengths and weaknesses of both sides and help their clients understand them as well.
What This Means For You
You could be entitled to your day in court, but there may be and is a better way. Personal injury settlement conferences can lead to solutions if they are prepared and navigated by an experienced personal injury lawyer and mediator. There is wisdom in turning your sword into a ploughshare.
Give me a call me at (480) 833-1113 and we can talk about it.
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