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Mediation - Resolving Legal Disputes Out of Court

Tennessee personal injury attorneys explain legal process that allows parties to resolve disputes without resorting to a lengthy trial

Any case going to trial, whether it's a personal injury matter related to a car accident, or a medical malpractice case, is a big step. Not only will your case likely take longer to resolve if it goes to trial, it will be much more expensive and stressful even.

Settling your case out of court is the best scenario, provided any financial settlement in commiserate with your injuries, lost wages and other associated costs.

Mediation is a voluntary process by which disputes can be resolved out of court. It is the most commonly used form of dispute resolution here in Tennessee and around the country.

An impartial third-party "mediator" facilitates an open, frank discussion between each party

The role of a mediator isn't to make a decision or impose a resolution. Their role is to help those involved in a dispute talk to each other. The mediator is essentially an impartial observer who manages a session.

A case that goes to trial is limited in how the two sides interact with each other. In a formal courtroom setting, a party or their attorney may only speak when allowed to. In mediation, both parties pretty much have a blank slate, provided things stay cordial.

Sessions will occur in a neutral location that will allow for maximum opportunity to air grievances and other points of the case.

A formal mediation session basically consists of six steps.

  1. Introductory remarks
  2. Statement of problem(s) by each party
  3. Information gathering
  4. Problem identification
  5. Bargaining/identifying options
  6. Reaching an agreement

If either side or both sides have an attorney present, they can deliver opening remarks. However, the mediator will also likely ask the client to make a statement as well.

The basic role of the mediator is to facilitate communication, clarify issues and help each party assess their options. They do not offer advice, as their participation is impartial.

It's important to remember though that mediation can be costly too. Many mediators charge pretty handsome fees for their services. And of course, you've got the cost of hiring a personal injury attorney. Compared to a lengthy trial though, these costs can pale in comparison.

A mediator can either be appointed by the court or agreed on by each party

While we know of and have worked with many capable mediators, the Alternative Dispute Resolution Commission and the Administrative Office of the Courts provide a list of qualified mediators here in Tennessee. Many of these mediators though fall under Rule 31, which was a Supreme Court (Tennessee) ruling in 1996 that established a court-based alternative dispute resolution system statewide.

Your case doesn't have to fall under Rule 31 in order for you to try mediation. If the opposing side agrees to it, a mediator can be requested without involving a judge or a court at all.

Resolving your case through mediation has several benefits over a trial

As we mentioned before, resolving a case through mediation can be much less expensive and time consuming that taking a case to trial. Other benefits include:

  • Participants have greater control over the resolution of their problem
  • Disputes can be resolved quickly. A mediation session is scheduled once each party agrees to use this method
  • Cooperative problem solving and improved communication also promotes better relationships
  • Sessions are private and confidential, unlike a trial
  • Mediation is completely voluntary, even if it was ordered by a judge, since a session can be terminated at any time, for any reason.

While mediation does provide an alternative to a trial, having an attorney present for mediation is advised so you can get a completely unbiased assessment of your options and the best way to proceed.

Knoxville-based personal injury & medical malpractice attorneys at the Gilreath Law Firm can help guide you through a mediation session should you decide it's the best route to take to settle your case. And if mediation isn't successful, we can be better prepared to take your case to the next level.

The best way to proceed is to discuss your case with an experienced, qualified Tennessee personal injury attorney as soon as possible to adequately assess your options. Contact associates at the Gilreath Law Firm to schedule a free consultation today. 

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