Are there alternatives to taking your personal injury case to court?
Many accident victims shy away from contacting personal injury lawyers to assist them in settling claims. The reasons may vary and may include advice from insurance adjusters and ignorance of their legal rights and alternatives. What you may not know is that attorneys do more than file for lawsuits; they can also help you settle claims out of court and get you the best settlement.
If you like the idea of settling your claim outside court with the help of an attorney, you can use alternative dispute resolution (ADR) methods. Mediation and arbitration are the primary ADR forms and can be used in various personal injury cases, such as automobile, truck, commercial vehicle and pedestrian accidents.
The 2 methods are similar in many ways, but also differ.
What is mediation?
Mediation is a form of ADR that allows an injured person to settle their claim against an insurance company without a hearing before a judge or a jury trial. The decision to use mediation in personal injury cases is always voluntary and is used to reach a fair settlement.
The mediation process
For most personal injury cases, the mediation is held at a mediator or an attorney’s office. The mediator is a neutral party carefully selected by your attorney and the defense attorney. Usually, the mediators are retired judges or private attorney mediators. The chosen mediator should have credibility with the defense such that they can trust and listen to them.
All mediations start with both parties in one room. Once all parties have arrived there, the mediator gives a breakdown of the mediation process. Both parties also present their sides of the case before moving into separate rooms. In the defense room, you will find the insurance adjuster and defense attorney.
The mediator moves back and forth between the rooms, presents settlement offers, discusses the pros and cons of the case and shares information with the parties. The goal is to reach a final and fair resolution of the case.
In most cases, you will need more than one mediation session to settle a case.
Pros of a personal injury mediation strategy
Here are some of the benefits of going with a mediator:
- Both parties have to agree on a settlement; otherwise, nobody is bound to a settlement they do not like.
- Mediation saves costs that would have been incurred to pay experts and other witnesses to testify at trial.
- It is less formal than court proceedings, and rules of evidence are not a problem.
- It may lay the foundation for a later pre-trial settlement.
Con of mediation
The need to have everybody on the same page is a disadvantage in that it may take a long time before all parties are in agreement—if an agreement is possible at all.
What is arbitration?
Arbitration is another form of ADR that gives both parties control over the outcome and beats the unpredictability of a trial by jury. The arbitration process is a private process where the parties in dispute agree that one or several individuals should serve as judges in their case.
The arbitrators, just like mediators, are retired judges or attorneys with experience in personal injury cases. The arbitration may be binding where it is a court-ordered arbitration, and the decision is final. Otherwise, arbitration can be non-binding and overseen by an advisory award. In this case, both parties have the right to reject or accept.
The arbitration process
Unlike with meditation, during arbitration, the plaintiff, their attorney, the arbitrator and the defense team will be in the same room. You will sit across from each other at a conference table, and the arbitrator goes over the rules of the arbitration.
The process is similar to a court trial. Both parties are required to make opening statements and present evidence. The parties can present testimonies, physical evidence and any other evidence the same way they do would in a courtroom.
The arbitrator listens to the evidence before issuing their decision. The arbitrator must use the same laws and rules that a jury or judge would use, but in some cases, they don’t have to apply the governing law.
Pros of an arbitration personal injury strategy
There are benefits of choosing to go with an arbitrator instead of a mediator. These advantages include:
- Although similar to court trials, the rules are more relaxed. For instance, it does not abide by the evidentiary laws.
- Expert testimony can be presented using the expert’s written records, making it cost-effective.
- It is less formal and offers prompt resolution without going to court.
Con of arbitration
In a binding arbitration situation, the arbitrator’s decision can only be on narrow grounds, but in most cases, there is no right to appeal.
Why hire a skilled trial lawyer for your personal injury case?
Even if you hope to settle your case without having to undergo the time and expense of trial, having a skilled trial attorney on your side will help you get a fair offer and protect your rights during mediation and settlement.
An experienced accident attorney will help you calculate your total damages for economic and non-economic losses such as emotional distress and pain. They will also fill all the necessary paperwork to secure your benefits sooner and even represent you in court if that will be necessary. Calling a trusted attorney soon after an accident may help you avoid making some common mistakes that may derail your injury compensation claim.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident in Atlanta, Georgia, do not hesitate to schedule a free consultation with an experienced accident attorney at Scholle Law. We can help spare you stress while you focus on recovery.