“I’ll see you in court!”
While this statement punctuates many tense conversations that occur during the course of lawsuits, in fact, many Indiana workplace injury cases never go to a hearing or trial. Instead, the parties find a way to settle the dispute out of court.
There are often certain benefits to settling a case. A settlement everyone can agree on may save time and money, allowing you to receive fair compensation for your losses and move on with your life. But when things get tense, a settlement can feel tough or impossible to achieve.
Mediation is one way to improve the chances of reaching an acceptable agreement instead of going to trial. During mediation, you and the other party work with a third-party mediator to find common ground that will allow you to reach a compromise you will both accept. If you can’t find that common ground during mediation, you are still allowed to go to a hearing or trial.
Many courts require parties to attempt mediation before trial. At Klezmer Maudlin, PC, our experienced Indiana workers’ compensation lawyers have both represented clients in mediation and served as mediators ourselves. We understand the value of this important alternative dispute resolution option, and we’re dedicated to providing knowledgeable and focused mediation services.
For over 23 years, the team at Klezmer Maudlin, PC, has focused on handling Indiana workers’ compensation cases. We actually wrote the book on this area of law. Thomson Law asked us to author the Workers’ Compensation Practice Manual, which serves as a resource for all issues related to the administration and practice of workers’ compensation law in Indiana. We know our field, and we bring that knowledge to the table in the mediation of workers’ compensation disputes.
What is Mediation?
Mediation is the most popular form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR). Like arbitration and other forms of ADR, mediation is a way to resolve a legal case without having a full court trial or formal hearing. While many Indiana judges prefer or even require parties to try mediation before trial, going to mediation does not take away your right to have a trial if your case cannot be resolved in any other way.
During mediation, each party and their attorney meet with a neutral third person, known as the mediator. Mediators are typically selected for their experience in the area of law that governs the dispute. For instance, the attorneys at Klezmer Maudlin, PC, are asked to serve as mediators in Indiana workers’ compensation disputes because we know the law well.
The role of the mediator is to help both sides understand their options and to find common ground that will allow them to create a settlement agreement they can both accept. The specific topics or issues discussed depend on the details of each case, which means that no two mediation sessions are ever exactly the same.
Mediation may last only a few hours, or it may go on for days. Often, the parties will decide before they begin how long they want mediation to last and which issues they want to discuss during mediation.In particularly complex cases, mediation might be used to address only one or two key issues, with the rest saved for arbitration or trial.
While the mediator can help the parties communicate and find points of agreement, the mediator cannot give legal advice to either party or tell that party what to do. The mediator also cannot make a decision and then require the parties to go along with it, as an arbitrator or a judge may do. The parties must come to their own settlement, and they must both agree to that settlement. If they do not, they move to the next stage in the process, which may include more negotiations on their own or may include preparation for trial. Each party can bring their own attorney to mediation to help them understand how the law will affect them if certain settlement options are agreed to or decisions are made.
The results of mediation are confidential. For this reason, some parties prefer mediation to trial, which is typically a matter of public record. The confidential nature of mediation makes it a good place to discuss sensitive information or things that you would prefer not be made public.
What Should I Consider When I Go into Mediation?
Mediation can be a valuable tool for resolving a workplace injury claim if you come prepared. When you are considering or preparing for mediation, it helps to keep the following tips in mind:
- Plan ahead. Spend plenty of time thinking about your options and discussing your approach with your lawyer. What does an ideal outcome look like to you? What alternatives would you consider to be not ideal, but acceptable? What, if anything, do you absolutely refuse to consider, and why? Spend some time thinking about “what if” scenarios and how you might respond.
- Listen. Unlike trial, which is designed to be adversarial, mediation is better thought of as a collaborative effort. Even if you can’t think of yourself as on the same team as the other party, be willing to listen to the other party’s position and to see if you can’t find creative ways for both you and the other side to get what you want.
- Expect the unexpected. New information or developments frequently come up either during mediation or as a result of entering mediation, even if issues are not resolved there. Talk to your lawyer about any unexpected developments, as these may offer opportunities to reduce or eliminate certain problems.
- Trust, but verify. The mediator’s responsibility is to stay neutral, so be willing to trust that the mediator is going to take this responsibility seriously. Nevertheless, always verify information with your lawyer (who will likely be present during the mediation), and never agree to any settlement or part of a settlement until you’ve talked it over with your attorney in private first.