Mediation is a method of dispute resolution available to parties in a lawsuit, providing an alternative to litigation. Generally speaking, it is a process of negotiation which is administrated by a neutral third party. Mediation may be ordered by the court or mandated by a prior contractual agreement. If it is legally compelled, a judge may punish a party who is non-compliant. However, in many cases, mediation is completely voluntary, as parties to the dispute may desire a quicker, less expensive resolution.
Arbitration and mediation are sometimes confused, but there is an important distinction which separates them. Arbitration involves the facilitator to make a binding decision, while the facilitator in a mediation process is only there to assist with the conversation and makes no final rendering.
Should You Choose Mediation?
When the two parties in the dispute are either unwilling or unable to resolve the situation, mediation may be suggested.
The mediator oversees the exchange of information, communicates each person’s position, offers assistance as to possible settlements, and makes a third-party determination of unrealistic expectations. In other words, this neutral party helps each side to calmly talk through their position, and offers structured, practical advice. The mediator does not decide who is right or wrong, or render a decision.
Quick Definition: A mediator is a neutral third party who interprets concerns, defines the underlying issues and problems, and relays information between the parties in order to help them come to a fair settlement without litigation.
This method of alternative dispute resolution is most often seen in family court and small claims court. Many people are very intimidated by a courtroom process, and instead prefer the informality and confidentiality of the mediation process. Rather than a judge imposing a ruling over the situation, the parties have more of a say as to the outcome of the dispute. Not only that, but they can choose a location, a time, and a method of negotiation which is comfortable for them. Mediation offers the opportunity for a civil resolution, as opposed to a court battle which may become more contentious.
Other Mediation Facts
- During a mediation, each party may be (and usually is) accompanied by their lawyer. A mediator cannot offer legal advice, so your attorney is invaluable to you during these talks. Also, an attorney can draw up needed agreements and settlements more easily if they are involved first-hand.
- The information discussed during the process is considered confidential and is prohibited from being used as evidence against you should you need to proceed to litigation.
- The facilitator is there to make every party feel that they are being heard and given a fair chance to tell their side of the story.
- The process allows for you to include small details in the written settlement which may be left out of a judge’s ruling. These details may not be important to the court, but may be very important to you.
- Choosing to mediate rather than litigate generally results in a much faster resolution. Settlement agreements should be drafted and signed during the mediation if at all possible, so as to avoid either party changing their mind after they leave the negotiation.
- The facilitator’s fee is generally paid by both parties, but that may also be negotiated through the process.
Probinsky, Chavez & Cole would like to speak with you regarding your personal injury, malpractice, or auto accident case – and are happy to explain your dispute resolution options to you regardless of your situation. If you need legal advice regarding these or any other issues, please give our Sarasota and Tampa area attorneys a call.