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Mediation FAQ

  1. What is mediation?
  2. How long does mediation take?
  3. How is mediation different from arbitration?
  4. How are mediators chosen?
  5. What happens at mediation?

Questions & Answers

What is mediation?

Mediations are an increasingly popular alternative dispute resolution (ADR) process. Mediation is a process by which parties in a claim or a lawsuit come together for a meeting in which they try to resolve their differences with the help of a mediator. The mediator and the parties work together to attempt to achieve a settlement or other resolution of the case. For people who are more familiar with court ordered settlement conferences, mediations are similar to a settlement conference; however, they usually last longer with the parties more involved in the process.
Everything that is said at mediation is confidential, and cannot be used against a party later in a lawsuit.

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How long does mediation take?

Typical mediation cases, such as auto accident claims, are usually resolved after a half-day or, at most, a full day of mediation. Cases with multiple parties often last longer: Add at least an hour of mediation time for each additional party.

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How is mediation different from arbitration?

A mediator normally has no authority to render a decision. It’s up to the parties themselves — with the mediator’s help — to work informally toward their own agreement. An arbitrator, on the other hand, conducts a contested hearing between the parties and then, acting as a judge, rends a legally binding decision. Arbitration resembles a court proceeding: Each side calls witnesses, presents evidence, and makes arguments. Although arbitration has traditionally been used to resolve labor and commercial disputes, it is growing in popularity as a quicker and less expensive alternative to going to court.

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How are mediators chosen?

Generally, the lawyers in a case get together and attempt to select a mediator in which they all are comfortable. Usually, this will be someone who is very knowledgeable on the subject matter of the case, skilled at mediation and considered relatively unbiased. Mediators can be either retired judges or practicing or retired attorneys.

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What happens at mediation?

Mediations can vary a great deal depending upon the style of the mediator, attorneys and the nature of the case. Most mediation cases begin with a "joint session" where all of the parties, attorneys and insurance adjusters meet in one conference room with the mediator.
The mediator describes the process that will be followed and then each side has an opportunity to present their point of view of the case to the other side and the mediator. The parties themselves can speak to the other side if they choose. In cases in which there is extreme hostility between parties, such as cases of sexual abuse and exploitation, the joint session may be bypassed in order to protect the plaintiff.
If there is a joint session, when it is finished the parties and their attorneys go to separate rooms and the mediator shuffles back and forth from the rooms discussing important issues in the case and conveying settlement demands and offers.

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