Simply put, mediation is a supervised settlement conference presided over by a mediator who is specially trained. The purpose of mediation is to facilitate open and reasonable settlement discussions by all of the parties. Mediators are often attorneys or former judges. The role of the mediator is not to decide the merits or value of your case. The mediator is there simply to help the parties settle the lawsuit.
In Florida, all interested parties are required to attend mediation including, but not necessarily limited to: the plaintiff, the defendant, their respective counsel, corporate representatives of business defendants, representatives of insurance companies with full settlement authority and any other individual or entity who has an interest in the outcome of the claim. Any party who is required to attend and fails to do so is subject to sanctions by the Court.
The mediator normally opens the conference by introducing himself and the parties, outlining his qualifications and describing the process. The lawyers for the parties then have an opportunity to present a brief statement outlining the circumstances surrounding the incident giving rise to the lawsuit, damages and the evidence. Next, the mediator will meet privately with each side. These private meetings will normally result in a settlement offer by the defendants or a settlement demand by the plaintiff. The offer or demand is then submitted to the other party for consideration. The offer or demand may be accepted, rejected or countered. Further negotiations will then normally occur between the parties. Mediations are usually scheduled for a minimum of three to four hours but can last much longer.
Mediation is an excellent tool in settling personal injury lawsuits. The most attractive aspect of mediation is that it eliminates the uncertainty of proceeding to a jury verdict. That being said, if the defendant or his insurance company presents a final offer which is inadequate, there is often no other choice but to proceed to trial.
Corey Bundza is a partner at Bundza & Rodriguez, P.A. in Daytona Beach, Florida. He represents clients who have been injured through the negligence of others.