Mediation Can Help Bring Legal Actions to an Early Conclusion
December 21st, 2018 by McNeely | Stephenson
The legal system has become so complex, time consuming and costly that parties normally work very hard to avoid using it. After a civil lawsuit is filed, negotiations may ebb and flow, but the vast majority of Indiana lawsuits are resolved through settlements, not verdicts after trials. Those are the endings you see in movies and TV — reality is normally far less dramatic.
Mediation is the use of a neutral third party to help the parties negotiate a resolution. At McNeely Stephenson, Larry Church, Jason Lopp and Dana Eberle-Peay not only negotiate settlements for their clients involved in litigation, but they also work as mediators in other cases.
There are many benefits to settling a case. The biggest is it eliminates the uncertainty of a trial, which can be all-or-nothing outcomes for the parties. Settlements put the case’s resolution in the hands of the parties, not in the hands of a judge or jury. Settlements can also mean that far less time, effort, expense and emotion need to be spent during the litigation process.
Mediators can be used in any kind of civil legal action, including personal injury, family law, disputes between businesses and employment matters. A case may not be resolved for any number of reasons:
- The parties may not have all the facts.
- There may be personality conflicts between the parties or the attorneys.
- One or both parties may see the lawsuit as a test of wills, a competition that needs to be won, not as a conflict that needs to come to a conclusion.
Depending on the case, this could be a critical step toward resolution, because one party may feel they have not previously been heard or taken seriously by the other side. They feel an injustice has been done and the other party needs to understand their situation.
Often after preliminary discussions the parties and their attorneys split up to different rooms and the mediator shuttles back and forth. The mediator needs to get to the heart of the matter and uncover what’s truly motivating both sides. The mediator finds out what both sides need to come to a resolution, as opposed to what they want.
A common tactic to bringing parties together is to start by reaching agreements on more minor issues. One issue after another is resolved and momentum to a settlement builds. There’s more and more to lose if the parties walk away, so they’re more inclined to compromise. They often will do what needs to be done to settle the case, put it behind them and move on with their lives.
Mediators are usually attorneys, retired attorneys or retired judges. Using someone experienced in civil litigation, especially someone with knowledge and practical experience in your type of lawsuit, can be extremely valuable. They know what needs to be proven to be successful, the legal issues both sides will need to address, and how judges and juries are likely to respond in a case like yours. If one or both parties are not being realistic about their expectations, a mediator setting them straight can be a big help toward bringing a lawsuit to a conclusion.
Most civil lawsuits are resolved without outside help, but mediators can be invaluable in those cases where progress toward settlement is very difficult or impossible.
If you’re involved in a legal action and think mediation could be useful in resolving it, call us or contact McNeely Stephenson online today so we can discuss your situation confidentially during a consultation.