You might need to file a lawsuit to get the compensation you deserve when an insurance company refuses to offer you a fair settlement for a personal injury claim. However, in South Carolina, the parties must participate in Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) before the case reaches trial. ADR often takes the form of mediation. Mediation can be used to resolve personal injury cases as a less expensive and time-consuming alternative to trial. Here is what you need to know about how mediation works.
What Is Mediation?
Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution in which a neutral mediator facilitates communication and negotiation between two opposing parties. The mediator is often a retired judge or third-party attorney. Mediation aims to achieve a mutually agreeable settlement rather than having a decision mandated by a judge or jury.
Why Mediate a Personal Injury Case?
In all South Carolina counties, ADR is mandatory for personal injury cases before they go to trial. Many choose the mediation process over arbitration.
Courtroom trials can be drawn-out, unpredictable, and costly. Many people choose mediation because it can achieve a faster resolution at a far lower cost. It also allows both parties to have more control over the outcome. Furthermore, while trials are public affairs, how mediation works is that it allows the parties to preserve their privacy and confidentiality.
The Mediation Process
How mediation works will be different each time. But most South Carolina personal injury mediations follow a similar pattern.
The mediation process typically begins with both parties and their legal representatives, if any, gathering with the mediator. The session will usually be held at the mediator’s office. Or it can be held at a venue both sides have agreed to in advance. Each side is allotted time to present an opening statement explaining their view of the case’s issues and their position.
After the opening statements, the negotiation begins in earnest. The mediator will often put the parties in separate rooms. They split time meeting privately with each party to exchange settlement offers, counteroffers, and additional information confidently. The mediator may also hold joint sessions where the key principals can negotiate directly. They act as a go-between and neutral facilitator rather than making decisions themselves. Notably, while a mediator can propose solutions, either party has the freedom to accept or reject the suggestions.
Agreement or Litigation
If a settlement amount is reached during the mediation session, the agreement terms will be written up formally by the mediator for the parties to sign off on. Mediation can often help the parties reach an agreement within a single day. However, if significant progress has been made but an agreement has yet to be reached, the parties may agree to add an additional day of mediation.
If no agreement can be reached, the parties still have the option to litigate the case further in court.
Pros and Cons of Mediating Personal Injury Cases
There are many potential benefits to mediating rather than going to trial for a personal injury claim in South Carolina, such as the following:
- Settlement amounts tend to be higher on average than court awards or insurance claim payouts. The mediator has more flexibility to arrive at a number both sides feel is fair.
- Creative solutions, beyond just monetary payouts, are possible. Examples include structured plans for covering future medical expenses related to the injury.
- The parties can often customize payment plans in ways not available with a jury verdict.
However, since settlement through mediation is essentially a negotiation and compromise, a plaintiff might not receive absolutely everything they aimed for. An experienced South Carolina personal injury lawyer can advise whether accepting a mediated settlement or continuing to trial may be strategically more advisable. There are no guarantees which path will maximize the final recovery amount.
Contact Murphy Crantford Meehan Today
The mediation process may offer a means of recovering compensation without going to trial if your insurance claim has not yielded the desired results. Although mediation is less adversarial than a trial in a courtroom, you will still need a skilled legal representative to protect your rights.
The experienced South Carolina personal injury mediation lawyers at Murphy Crantford Meehan have the knowledge and skills to represent your best interests during mediation. If necessary, we will fight for your rights in court. Contact us today at (843) 396-3840 for a free case evaluation to learn more about how we can help you.