When your case passes through the legal system, you may come across many processes and terms you are unfamiliar with. One of the common questions that injury victims have is whether their case is going to go through a mediation process or a settlement process and whether those two processes differ at all.
Generally, injury cases are settled through a settlement process where both sides meet outside of court, discuss the case, and try to reach an arrangement that best satisfies the needs of each party. If there is a neutral party overseeing parts of these settlement negotiations, then those meetings are often called “mediation.” But it is important to understand a few particular differences in these processes.
For a free review of your potential injury case, call the Westchester, NY personal injury lawyers at The Martello Law Firm. Contact us at (914) 685-6950 for a free case review.
What is Settlement in a NY Injury Case?
Settlement is the process of both sides coming together and agreeing to terms that will end a lawsuit early. The traditional alternative to settling is taking your case all the way through the court system to trial. Settlement can often save both parties a lot of time and money and still leave the victim satisfied that they have gotten the damages they were looking for in their injury claim.
When you settle your case, you typically sign a settlement agreement. This agreement says that the defendant will pay a certain amount of damages in exchange for you dropping the lawsuit against them. It typically also includes a clause that considers the case finished and prevents you from filing another lawsuit against them, releasing them from liability for this issue. At the end of the day, that means that there is likely no record or admission of fault on their part, but you are still paid for your injuries.
Often, settlements occur with the insurance company. For instance, after a slip and fall accident, our Yonkers personal injury lawyers might seek to settle your case with the owner of the house where the slip occurred and their homeowner’s insurance. Alternatively, this kind of case could involve settling with the owner of the business and their business liability insurance if the accident happened at a business instead of a private home.
Settlement negotiations can occur in many different ways. Often, judges will hold pretrial meetings and seek to have the parties agree to terms there. Otherwise, negotiations might occur at either side’s attorneys’ offices, over the phone, or even at the courthouse on the day of trial.
What is Mediation in a NY Injury Case?
Mediation is a process that is often used as part of settlement negotiations, but it is a more specific process that has more concrete rules and procedures. If an injury victim and the attorneys for the defendant cannot reach a fair settlement, they may seek mediation as a way of trying to get the case settled so they can all avoid going to trial.
Like settlement negotiations in general, both parties meet during mediation. However, instead of relying on their attorneys to run the conversation and doing away with any rules as to how the meeting will operate, mediation relies on a process that looks more like a hearing.
In mediation, there will be a neutral “mediator” whom both parties agree to meet with. The mediator can be an experienced attorney, a judge, or some other professional mediator put in charge of these meetings. At mediation, both parties will make their case to the mediator, who will try to help both sides reach an agreement by keeping the conversation and debate under control. In settlement meetings without a mediator, either side could potentially get upset and walk away from the negotiating table, whereas mediation has tools in place to prevent that.
What Are the Major Differences Between Settlements and Mediation?
It is important to understand that personal injury lawyers often use mediation as part of the settlement process; it is not really a separate process altogether but one potential step toward settlement. The core differences between settlement and mediation come down to the following:
Settlement negotiations are generally run by the attorneys for both sides, who are usually competing to get the other side to agree to their terms. In negotiations that do not take place before the judge, there is no neutral party who will help control the conversation and keep the parties on course.
Mediation, on the other hand, is run by a neutral mediator. Both sides consent to certain rules and procedures and give the mediator some authority to tell them when to meet and what they are permitted to discuss during their negotiations.
The second major difference is that mediation is not binding, but a final settlement is. If both parties go to mediation and arrive at a final decision by the mediator, neither side is required to accept the outcome. Often, agreements reached through mediation are good for both parties, and they will ultimately settle to those terms – but if either side wants to walk away from mediation, they can at any time.
After a settlement, both parties sign a binding contract. This means that you walk away from settlement with a final disposition of the case, and there is usually no way to undo it. Either party is free to walk away from settlement negotiations at any time, but they still have to go to court and continue pursuing or defending the case until the judge and jury make a decision. If a settlement negotiation is reached and both sides sign, the case is over. Because of this, you should never agree to a settlement without having our New Rochelle personal injury lawyers review your case first.
Call Our New York Personal Injury Attorneys for Help Settling Your Case
For a free case assessment, call the Mount Vernon personal injury attorneys at The Martello Law Firm today by dialing (914) 685-6950.