What Types of Cases Can Be Settled By Mediation?
Unlike on television, lawsuits don't typically resolve in weeks. Lawsuits generally take months, or even years, to resolve. Factors such as the amount of evidence, number of witnesses and the volume of cases filed in a particular court determines when a lawsuit will reach trial and ultimately to a resolution. Even then, there's no guarantee the case will be over. A losing party may decide to appeal the verdict and continue the lawsuit to a higher court. An appeal can add on years to a lawsuit.
Lawsuits can be very expensive. Filing fees, costs to obtain records, costs for depositions and hiring expert witnesses can easily reach thousands of dollars or even exceed hundreds of thousands of dollars in some cases. Often these are necessary expenses, but the longer a lawsuit takes to resolve, the more expensive it likely becomes.
Mediation is an alternative forum to help resolve legal disputes and minimize or avoid expenses. The objective is to bring all parties together and work out an agreeable settlement. Mediation is often favored by litigants because it can bring an early closure to a lawsuit and avoid ongoing costs. Many judges actually require parties to mediate before bringing the lawsuit to trial.
What Is Mediation?
Mediation is an informal, confidential legal process where the parties come together (in an office, by telephone or video conference) and present their legal positions to a neutral, third-party mediator. A typical mediation will generally last a half or full day, but sometimes the parties will agree to a multi-day mediation depending on the nature of the case and number of parties.
The mediator is often a retired judge with years of experience handling various legal issues. In some instances, the mediator will be a practicing lawyer knowledgeable and experienced in a particular area of law that's in dispute.
During mediation, the mediator will confer separately with the parties to discuss the pros and cons of the legal dispute from the parties' perspective until an agreement is reached. This process often helps each party understand the other side's position from an evidentiary, procedural, economic and risk perspective.
Even when mediation is ordered by the judge in a lawsuit, there's no legal requirement the parties reach an agreement. The only legal requirement in Texas is the parties who do appear at mediation must do so in “good faith”; that is, the parties must genuinely and sincerely intend to try to resolve their legal dispute during mediation. Thus, if the settlement proposed at mediation is not acceptable, the parties are not required to agree to its terms and the lawsuit will proceed in court. If a mediation settlement agreement is reached, the parties will memorialize their agreement in writing and conclude the matter. Further expense and time expended will be avoided with a mediated settlement.
What Types Of Cases Go To Mediation?
Essentially every civil matter can go to mediation, including:
- Personal injury lawsuits, such as car wrecks, slip & falls and workplace injury claims
- Family law matters, such as divorces, child custody issues and modifications
- Breach of contract lawsuits
- Probate cases
- Landlord-Tennant lawsuits
If there's a legal dispute, mediation can be an economical and faster forum to resolving the matter.
What Are The Advantages Of Mediation?
The objective of mediation is to help parties who are involved in a legal dispute resolve their differences and find an agreeable solution to move forward. Advantages include:
- Quicker resolution of lawsuit – Parties can mediate at any time during a lawsuit. Thus, parties can decide to mediate early instead of waiting months or years for a trial date;
- Cost effective – Mediation costs money, but the minimal costs can potentially save the parties from having to spend more time and money on pursuing a lawsuit through trial;
- Confidential – Unlike in court where everything is open to the public, mediation is confidential. What is said during mediation cannot be heard by others not involved in the case and can't be used in court;
- Control – The parties are the decision-makers unlike a judge or jury who'll determine the outcome. The parties can agree to accept or reject the proposed offers at mediation.
- Guaranteed conclusion – Unlike a trial verdict that can be appealed and continue on for years, a successful mediation ensures the case will finally be resolved and with a certain, guaranteed amount of money. Nothing is guaranteed with a jury trial.
Contact Hernandez Sunosky, LLP at 713.981.4100 For Help.
The lawyers at Hernandez Sunosky, LLP are trial lawyers. We work every case as if it'll go to trial. Our experience has taught us that if we prepare for trial, we can maximize our clients' recovery even at mediation. If the other side knows we are ready to take the lawsuit all the way through to trial, the chances of a full and final recovery through a mediated settlement is greater.