Parties to a claim or a lawsuit can agree to mediation at any time, however, prior to a lawsuit being filed there is no mandatory requirement for the parties to attend a mediation unless it is a contractual dispute and the contract requires mediation as condition which must be met prior to a lawsuit being filed. However, once a lawsuit has been filed and the case has been set for a trial, most judges in Florida require the parties to attend mediation prior to being able to have a trial.
Florida Statutes Chapter 44 governs mediation. Florida Statute 44.1011(2) provides the following definition for mediation: “Mediation means a process whereby a neutral third person called a mediator acts to encourage and facilitate the resolution of a dispute between two or more parties. It is an informal and non-adversarial process with the objective of helping the disputing parties reach a mutually acceptable and voluntary agreement. In mediation, decision making authority rests with the parties. The role of the mediator includes, but is not limited to, assisting the parties in identifying issues, fostering joint problem solving, and exploring settlement alternatives.”
The mediator is usually a retired judge or an attorney that specializes in settlement negotiations and has obtained specialized certification to become a mediator. Mediation is generally conducted with a single mediator who does not judge the case but simply helps to facilitate discussion and eventual resolution of the dispute. Mediation is a relatively informal process enabling the parties to engage in face to face negotiations with the assistance of a mediator. Neither party is forced to settle at mediation, but each must negotiate in “good faith”.
Mediation usually begins with the parties and the mediator meeting in one room. Each party usually through their attorney summarizes his or her case to the mediator and opposing side in an opening statement while all the parties are in one room. After opening statements, the parties separate into different rooms. Then mediator meets privately with each side and reports offers between the parties. It is also important to note that all communications which occur during the mediation are confidential.
Mediation can last minutes, hours, or days. Mediation ends when the parties have agreed on settlement terms or have agreed that settlement terms cannot be reached. Although some cases settle at mediation, many do not. However, in most instances the mediator continues to follow up with the parties in hopes of reaching a settlement. Sometimes important information is learned at mediation that enables parties to engage in more meaningful settlement discussions at a later date. For most cases, mediation has proven to be a very useful method for resolving claims before trial.
Ryan Wynne, the author of this article, is an attorney with the firm Slinkman, Slinkman & Wynne, P.A. who has practiced law in south Florida since 2007.
If you want to learn more about mediation, arbitration, litigation and what the chances are of your personal injury case settling before going to trial in Jupiter, Palm Beach Gardens, West Palm Beach, Stuart, or anywhere else in the state of Florida then you should contact Slinkman, Slinkman & Wynn, P.A. Or, if you have questions about many other real world legal issues in cases of serious injury claims, auto accidents, wrongful death, medical malpractice, motorcycle accidents, boating accidents, nursing home, products liability, insurance litigation, law enforcement misconduct, commercial law and other personal injury cases in Jupiter, West Palm Beach, or throughout the state of Florida, you need to contact a firm with a level of expertise that yields results. That firm is Slinkman, Slinkman & Wynn, at http://www.sswlawfl.com.
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