Lawsuits of any kind are a long, difficult and expensive process that can be unpredictable. The results a plaintiff receives may not be what they were expecting. This is true in many types of civil cases, including personal injury, divorce, contract disputes, and others. Two parties who can’t agree to a settlement and don’t want to wait for a trial can work with a mediator who can help the parties come to a mutually acceptable outcome.
With court dockets almost permanently backlogged, both attorneys and clients are looking for ways to get their cases settled and keep from going to trial. The increased costs of litigation and going to trial may exceed the dollar amount of what’s at stake. Mediation can make the process more amenable with a better outcome for everyone.
Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)
New ways of resolving cases are becoming increasingly popular among both clients and attorneys. It’s faster, easier, and less expensive than waiting months, and sometimes years, for a case to get to trial. There are several types of ADR, with the most common being:
- Arbitration, two types:
- Settlement conferences
- Neutral evaluation
With mediation, both parties want to come to an agreement and settle the dispute and use a neutral third party as a “referee.” Mediation is particularly favored since it can break the loggerhead between two parties and allow the case to end.The goal is for both parties to work together for a win-win outcome that benefits everyone. The mediator works with both parties equally to help them resolve the dispute for themselves.Mediation is particularly effective in cases where heightened emotions are involved, such as a divorce or child custody case, or in cases where there is a relationship involved, such as a family business, neighbor, or business dispute. The mediator can navigate through the conflict while helping both sides avoid animosity after the dispute is settled.Of course, if one party is of the mindset that “it’s my way or the highway,” chances are mediation will not be a good idea.
How Mediation Works
As an informal process, mediation could last a day, or much longer. However, it does not involve calling witnesses or juries. Everything is confidential and isn’t recorded or made public like a trial. Should the mediation fail to resolve the conflict, statements made during proceedings are not admissible in any litigation that follows.Once a meeting is planned, the process is fairly straightforward:
- The mediator introduces all the parties and offers opening remarks
- Each party is given the opportunity to present their side of the conflict without interruption
- Once both sides complete presenting their side of the case, the mediator begins a discussion with both parties, clarifies anything that’s unclear, while everyone is able to ask questions to better understand the other party.
- Should these discussions not go well, the parties will be sent into separate rooms to meet privately, a process called the “caucus.” This is where information shared away from the other party can, upon request, be kept confidential by the mediator.
- After meeting with both parties separately the mediator can begin negotiations
- Successful negotiations lead to settlement, while unsuccessful negotiations may lead to arbitration or take the next step to trial.
The neutral, third-party mediator listens to both sides and begins working with both to brainstorm ways to resolve the conflict that prevents resolution. Mediators must be neutral and objective so that they can listen to both sides, and not favor one party over the other.Parties are not required to follow the mediator’s suggestions, and the mediator does not make decisions for the parties. This contrasts with binding arbitration, in which the arbitrator makes decisions that both parties are required to follow as a matter of course.Harvard University’s Program On Negotiation (PON) has additional information on how mediation can help resolve conflicts without trial.
Let Popham Law Help With Mediation
Mediation can help with a difficult lawsuit, or help resolve issues that have all parties deadlocked. It’s also important to have someone who is not only trained in mediation but understands the laws involved.Popham Law’s considerable experience in several types of cases in Kansas City means that we are an ideal partner as third-party mediators.If you or a loved one is involved in a lawsuit that has stalled, or if a court has ordered you to engage in mediation, contact us at (844) 243-2288 or through our website to discuss your case.