At some point in the litigation process – from the time we file a request for trial to the trial date itself – an opportunity may arise for the Parties to attend mediation. Mediation is an informal meeting between the Parties, moderated by a neutral attorney called a mediator (the mediator has no interest in the outcome of the case, and is a person agreed to by both sides). This is not a trial! There is no evidence presented to the mediator, no testimony taken, and no formal paperwork prepared for mediation. During mediation, each side has an opportunity to explain their position on the case, and listen to what the other side has to say. The mediator, typically an attorney with experience in Longshore and Defense Base Act cases, or a retired Administrative Law Judge, will listen to both sides, and then separate the Parties into different rooms. Your attorney and you appear at mediation; the Employer and Carrier will send their attorney, and occasionally the insurance adjuster. Due to the informal nature of mediation, you can dress comfortably and casually.
Once separated, the mediator goes back and forth between the rooms, delivering each side’s monetary demand and offer to settle the case. Naturally, Parties are usually very far apart in their view of a case’s value. The mediator helps explain the strengths and weaknesses of each side’s case, and tries to negotiate a compromise. If successful, mediation may result in the settlement of the case for a lump sum of money, or the resolution of certain issues pending for trial. If not successful, each side walks away to prepare for trial. No one is forced to settle a case, and the decision to accept or deny an offer is completely up to you. Your attorney will advise you regarding the offer by the Employer/Carrier, but you make the final call. Mediation is confidential, and nothing said in mediation can be used at trial.
In order to fully prepare for mediation, and to ensure it is as productive as possible, you should make sure your attorney has all the updated medical records, unpaid bills, out-of-pocket receipts and reimbursement requests. Mediation can be anywhere from an hour to all day long, depending on the case and specific facts in dispute. Mediation is not always necessary or appropriate in all cases, and you and your attorney can discuss the option of attending mediation in your specific case.