Category Archives: Mediation

Key Advantages of Personal Injury Mediation

If you are representing a client and going through the process of filing a personal injury claim for your client, choosing personal injury mediation in Houston can provide you and your client with a number of key benefits. Some of the most important include:

Confidentiality

It is not uncommon in personal injury cases for personal injury defense lawyers to request many years’ worth of medical records of your client in order to find a way to challenge your client’s personal injury claim. This may result in a person’s private medical information being shared and discussed with many other parties, including insurance adjusters, insurance company employees, and possibly others. The defendant may also face the disclosure of damaging information that they do not want the public to know. Mediation is a confidential process where the parties cannot repeat whatever was discussed during the mediation session if the case is not resolved in mediation.

Cost and Time Savings

Both parties stand to save significant time and money by resolving their dispute through mediation. Litigation is expensive and can cost an exorbitant amount of money to pay attorney’s fees, court costs, expert witness fees and other expenses. Litigation can also drag out for a long time. Mediation can be scheduled quickly, based on the schedules of the parties, their attorneys, and the mediator. Scheduling mediation early in the litigation process can potentially help avoid many expenses associated with litigation.

Predictability

Houston Texas mediators can also help provide a more predictable outcome. If the parties reach an agreement during the mediation, they both know the end result of the case. They will not be surprised by a judge or jury’s decision at trial. Furthermore, the parties reach an agreement based on their own terms, not those imposed by a third party.

Learn more about how Houston mediators can help resolve your client’s personal injury claim by contacting us today.

Issues in Family Law Mediation

Attorneys represent families in a variety of cases including divorce, child custody, child support, visitation and domestic violence cases.  In most of these situations, it is in the best interests of all parties involved to pursue and participate in mediation.  In fact, most Courts require mediation prior to final hearing. Mediation provides a less expensive and less adversarial option than litigation.  When the spouses have children together or must otherwise maintain a cordial relationship, it is important that they align their interests and learn how to deal with each other in a productive manner.  It is important that the parties at the mediation negotiate in a manner that is in the best interest of the children. I require it, and so do the Courts. Some stumbling blocks that parties may encounter during mediation include:

Lack of Preparation

Parties may blindly enter the mediation process with no idea of what to expect or knowledge of what is expected of them.  Family law attorneys can help explain the process of mediation to their clients.  Additionally, attorneys can assist by preparing the case through proper research and documentation.

High Emotions

When dealing with children, property and money, it is common for people to become highly emotional.  The parties may need to vent their frustration with what they perceive as deceptive or unfair behavior by the other party.  Attorneys can be particularly helpful at the beginning of mediation by explaining their client’s side in a matter-of-fact manner.  Additionally, it can be more effective for parties to vent during a private session so that the parties do not begin with such bad blood.  This way, they can express their feelings and then transition into moving onto the issues at hand.  On the other hand, a general session can allow both parties to vent their hurt feelings and frustrations to their spouses, especially if they never had the opportunity to do so prior to their separation.

Focus on Past Misdeeds

Another hurdle that the parties must overcome is the desire to focus on each other’s past misdeeds.  A skilled mediator can often effectively handle this issue by having a comprehensive general session.  He or she explains the mediator’s role to serve as a neutral facilitator of communication.  He or she states that the purpose of mediation is to help resolve the issues that are currently plaguing the parties.  The mediator also sets ground rules at this point, such as refraining from talking disrespectfully to one another, cursing, or otherwise disrupting the process through inappropriate behavior.  Even if the parties have had a poor relationship in recent history, the mediator strives to get the parties to consider the future.

Poor Negotiation

Many people involved in mediation are not trained negotiators.  When going through mediation, parties should avoid behaviors that are adverse to assisting their interests.  For example, making outlandish demands will only create more bad blood and make that participant appear less credible.  The parties should negotiate the case as a business deal rather than negotiating on emotions. Attorneys can assist their clients with this issue by discussing beforehand the negotiation style that the attorney uses.  It should be well established when the client will talk and when the attorney will talk.  A good rule of thumb is for the attorney to ask to talk to his or her client privately after each potential settlement offer so that the client can receive candid advice about the repercussions of such agreements.

Achieving Optimum Results in Mediation

Mediation is an opportunity for two or more parties to a legal dispute to address legal issues, enhance communication and work toward a positive resolution of the dispute. To increase your chance of achieving optimum results, consider taking the following steps.

Ensure Decision Makers Are at the Table

Make sure that you schedule your mediation session in such a way that all of the decision makers can be present at the same time. This provides a number of benefits. For the plaintiff, this allows the actual wronged party to present his or her authentic representation of what led to the legal dispute. This can be quite therapeutic for a plaintiff who may never have the chance to directly address the defendant through litigation. For the defendant, this allows claims adjusters, employers or other affected parties to be part of the ultimate resolution of the case. Additionally, it prevents the absent decision maker from vetoing an agreement at the last minute after hours of good faith negotiation.

If physical presence is not possible, consider modern ways to achieve a similar result through a conference call, Skype, videoconferencing or similar technology.

Prepare Your Client

Before mediation, review the facts of the case and the legal issues involved so that your client will be prepared for mediation. Ask your client to tell you the story about what led to the current conflict in his or her own words. If there is information that needs to be emphasized, let your client know ahead of time. Get your client to acknowledge weaknesses in the case and discuss ways around them. Review evidence that helps substantiate your client’s version of events and prepare this information for the mediation session. New information in the case often gives the other side a chance to reevaluate legal positions and potential settlement value while saving face. Discuss your negotiation approach before the mediation session so that your client has a better understanding of potential offers that may be made, as well as the ability to see when you are in negotiation mode.

Explain the Process of Mediation

It is important for your client to understand the process and goals of mediation and how these differ from trial before a judge and/or a jury. Mediation is guided negotiation that serves as an alternative to public, expensive and time-consuming litigation. The traditional remedy in litigation is monetary damages. However, mediation allows the parties to structure their own agreement, so remedies do not have to be limited only to money damages. For example, the defendant may agree to institute a new policy or provide a recommendation letter for a former employee as part of the agreement.

Demonstrate Empathy

Even though mediation concerns legal issues, it can still be fraught with heavy emotions. A plaintiff may feel wronged after suffering a physical injury. A defendant may feel attacked with an impending lawsuit. As the attorney, it is important that your client feels like you understand his or her plight and that you are on his or her side. Addressing the emotional aspect of the case allows all parties and their counsel to humanize it. Once a client feels heard, he or she may be more willing to negotiate from a reasonable standpoint.

Prepare Yourself for Mediation

Attorneys should prepare for mediation to the same level as going to trial. Bring to the mediation copies of the police report, medical records, medical reports, medical bills (paid and not paid), pictures of the damaged vehicles, witness statements, personnel records (in an employment dispute), and legal research. The attorney can use this information to help educate the Mediator and opposing counsel and decision makers.