Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) is very popular these days. In fact, most courts require some form of ADR, like mediation or arbitration, to encourage settlements of lawsuits.
The typical method of dispute resolution is litigation, and as the name ADR suggests, the focus is on other (alternate) ways to get the job done.
The reality is that litigation, for most regular folks, is a very scary proposition. Most people don’t want to bring a lawsuit, but have no choice. Litigation is a way of living for trial lawyers, but should be a place of last resort.
It is always better to settle a case for a fair and reasonable amount, than throw the dice, unless of course you have nothing to lose. True to the old adage: It’s better to open a door than kick it down.
Today I was in Concord, New Hampshire with a client, whose personal injury case was a few months from trial. The other lawyer along with the insurance claims professional was there too, and with the intervention of a highly skilled mediator (a retired trial judge), the case settled for a very fair and reasonable amount.
A very informal method where both sides sit at a table and talk about their cases. Then the sides break into separate rooms. The mediator bounces back and forth. His goal is to help the parties reach a settlement.
It is nonbinding; the parties are not forced to reach an agreement/settlement.
A skilled mediator like the fellow we used today can put the parties at ease, and be an objective voice of reason. He can point out problems, and if necessary, prompt a party to come to its senses.
Mediators come in all shapes and sizes, but in my practice I’ll only use one who has been in the trenches of personal injury law, and has first-hand experience with injury victims. I find it hard to advise my client to take seriously a mediator whose experience does not include injury law.
How it works…
Mediation is much less expensive than a jury trial, and for the injury victim, much less stressful. It is relatively quick, so there is no need to miss a lot of work. It is also much less taxing emotionally.
At a trial, the injury victim is required to pay for, and present, medical testimony. Either the doctor comes to court live ( which most hate to do), or to give testimony outside court via video. Either way is expensive. Doctors generally don’t like the legal process, so when they get involved, they get paid plenty.
At mediation, the injury victim presents the medical records.
Every mediation is different. That’s because every injury case is different; every client is different; every insurance professional is different; and every mediator is different, etc. You get the picture.
The main thing is that mediation, and the other forms of ADR can be a great way to resolve personal injury cases. It is usually a no-lose proposition, and well worth the time, so long as the mediator is effective, and an experienced injury lawyer knows who is good and who isn’t.
Tonight my client will sleep well knowing her injury case has been successfully settled.
Keep your strength.