As a Dedham-Westwood accident lawyer, I’ve been legal counsel for injury victims in countless cases. Many times, these cases can be settled through the process of what is called mediation. Most civil disputes can be mediated, including those that have to do with contracts, leases, small business, employment, and divorce. This post, though, will discuss mediation in the context of personal injury litigation.
First, exactly what is mediation? It is the process by which the opposing parties in a lawsuit or injury claim agree to select a mutually agreeable third party “neutral”, called (appropriately) a mediator, who will study briefs and supporting materials that both sides submit, and attempt to bring the parties to a mutually satisfactory resolution to the dispute or claim involved. Licensed mediators in Massachusetts are attorneys who are required to undergo extensive specialty training and certification before they are allowed to hold themselves out as “mediators.” Most all mediators in Massachusetts belong to a professional specialty organization, such as the American Arbitration Association.
In the process of mediation, you and the defendant (represented 99% of the time by a lawyer for a liability insurance company that insures the defendant) try to work out a solution prior to litigating the matter in court, before a jury or judge. The process involves the mediator meeting first jointly with both parties, then separating them into respective conference rooms, so that he or she can meet privately to discuss each party’s positions in candor. (The parties are separated, after meeting initially together, to prevent arguing and a breakdown in communications, as these discussions can often become tense.) The mediator then “shuttles” back and forth between the parties, attempting to bring each side closer to an acceptable resolution. I remember long ago, when I was 20 years old, the first professional job I ever had was as a complaint mediator in the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office – in the Consumer Protection Division. I loved it.