Most people who hire lawyers for personal injury cases want to settle their case for a fair value, but they also want to feel they have prevailed. For most people, this means a chance to share their opinions, tell their story, and let it be known that their pain and suffering are real. Sometimes this means a trial before a jury of their “peers,” but more and more often it means a mediation with an experience lawyer or retired judge.
It is well known that over 90% of personal injury cases settle before trial. And recent studies have shown that is probably a good thing for both plaintiffs and defendants. But is mediation a substitute for trial? The short answer is no. Trial and mediation differ in many ways, with greatly differing risk and costs. But both can offer the injured plaintiff the chance to obtain some of the emotional justice in addition to the money damages sought.
Consider a recent mediation we participated in here at Walton Law Firm. The case involved wrongful death, and the clients were the wife and children of the decedent. They were a very close family, and in the year-long period they were our clients their passion for justice never waned. After substantial litigation, the family agreed to mediation with the defendant. The mediation lasted the entire day, and included long discussions with the mediator about the merits of the case, the risks and benefits, and most importantly about the overwhelming loss felt by the family. By the end of the mediation, the family was able to express their loss and their anger with the defendant directly, who like the family, was in tears and expressing remorse. The case settled, and the costs and risks associated with trial were avoided. In this case, this is what this family wanted.
Mediation is not for everyone, but for most, it is worth a try. A skilled mediator can make a plaintiff (and defendant) feel as though some form of justice has been obtained, without the emotional and financial risks of a jury trial.