Is Mediation Legally Binding?
Mediation is only legally binding if you and the opposing party agree to a settlement and file the signed contract with the court. A legal agreement isn’t enforceable unless it is in writing and signed by all parties involved.
Mediation is a method of resolving disputes in personal injury cases. The case can end without proceeding to trial if you reach an agreement during settlement talks. Although mediation is typically voluntary, some judges require the parties in a lawsuit to attend mediation before the upcoming trial.
A formal settlement agreement legally binds each party to the terms. If either person violates the terms, they can face civil or criminal penalties.
Understanding the Mediation Process
Mediation allows both parties in a personal injury lawsuit to meet with a mediator and attempt to settle the case. The plaintiff, their lawyer, and the defense attorney must attend. The insurance representative can also appear at mediation with the defense team. Sometimes, the defendant attends, but it isn’t always mandatory.
The session begins with the mediator introducing themselves and confirming everyone knows who each person is and their roles in the case. They will pass around a confidentiality agreement for everyone to sign. It allows all parties to speak freely and not worry about whether someone will use what they say against them later.
The plaintiff’s lawyer can begin with their opening statement to discuss the evidence they intend to present at the trial. Evidence can include medical records, videos, accident scene photos, and police/incident reports. The opening statement allows the defense team to determine the strengths and weaknesses of the opposing party’s case and decide if going to trial is in their client’s best interests.
Once the plaintiff’s lawyer concludes their opening statement, the defense attorney can make their opening statement. They will present their side of the case and explain the evidence they will rely on to defend their client. They might also revisit previously rejected settlement offers and try to convince the opposing party to accept.
Each side goes to a different room after opening statements for the rest of the mediation. The mediator will inform both parties of the strengths and weaknesses of their cases and what a jury might decide based on the presented evidence and information.
Mediators can’t decide the outcomes of personal injury lawsuits. However, they can suggest solutions to resolve the case. They might encourage the parties to settle because it will likely cost less than litigation or lead to a more desirable result.
Does Mediation Mean Settlement?
No. Mediation and settlement mean two different things. Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution. It is one method of settling a case outside of court.
A settlement is an agreement opposing parties reach during negotiation talks. It can occur anytime during the process, whether the plaintiff settles with the insurance company during the insurance claim or accepts an offer from the defense attorney during the lawsuit.
Mediation can be effective in resolving legal matters. However, a favorable outcome isn’t guaranteed. Both sides must be willing to compromise on the terms to reach a settlement agreement. If they’re unable or unwilling to meet each other in the middle, going to trial is the next step.
When Is Mediation Not Legally Binding?
Typically, a signed contract is legally binding. However, a judge might overturn your mediated settlement agreement under these circumstances:
- Either party didn’t have the mental capacity to understand the purpose of mediation and the consequences of settling the case
- One or more people signed the settlement agreement under coercion or duress
- One of the parties agreed to the settlement by mistake
- One of the parties in the lawsuit misrepresented the facts of the case
Why Settling Is Beneficial During Mediation
Settling during mediation is beneficial for many reasons, including:
- More efficient than spending months or years preparing the case for trial
- Conversations are confidential and inadmissible in court
- Participants have some control over the outcome since a jury or judge doesn’t decide on the case
- Less expensive than litigation
- Flexibility in negotiating the settlement terms
Contact an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer Today
Mediation isn’t always successful. Sometimes one or both parties don’t want to give in to the other side’s demands. Deciding whether you should settle your case or take your chances at trial is challenging. You must not proceed with your case until you consult a personal injury attorney from Veron, Bice, Palermo & Wilson, LLC.
We have extensive experience representing injured clients in Louisiana. Our team can protect your rights and help you pursue the compensation you deserve. Call the Lake Charles personal injury attorneys of Veron, Bice, Palermo & Wilson, LLC at 337-800-8800 for a free consultation if you have an upcoming mediation or were injured in an accident due to someone else’s negligence.