If you get injured in a car accident in Houston, you may encounter challenges while trying to get an auto insurance company to pay a fair amount for your injuries and losses. The insurance company may be unwilling to accept 100% of the blame or agree with the true value of the claim. If you and an insurance company cannot reach a settlement during negotiations, your case may need to proceed to the next step of the justice system: mediation.
Mediation is a type of alternative dispute resolution in Texas. Alternative dispute resolution refers to legal processes that take place before an injury trial, with the goal of reaching a settlement and avoiding court. Texas Revised Statutes Section 154.023 defines mediation as a forum involving all parties involved in a dispute and an impartial person (call the mediator), who will promote compromise, understanding, reconciliation or settlement.
Mediation is less formal than a car accident trial. Mediation generally does not take place in a courtroom. Instead, it is held in a conference room, either at a courthouse, a law office or a neutral location. Mediation is generally held in the county where the car accident took place. It only involves the parties named in the dispute, their legal representatives and the mediator. There is no judge, jury or spectators present during mediation.
Mediation is typically preferred over a car accident trial in Texas. A trial is expensive from court costs and fees such as hiring experts to testify. A trial can also take a long time to resolve – over a year if the court system in your county is congested. Going to trial also makes the car accident claim part of the public record. This eliminates the ability to achieve a private and confidential settlement with an auto insurance company.
Mediation is also informal, with a more relaxed environment than a courtroom that saves you the stress of a trial. You will also have more control over the outcome of the mediation. You and your lawyer do not have to agree to anything you do not want to during mediation. You will have no choice, however, but to accept the outcome of a trial.
Yes, you have the right to have an attorney present during mediation. You can even choose not to attend the actual mediation and send your lawyer as a representative to act in your place. If you do attend the meeting, your lawyer can help you state your position without hurting your case. Having a lawyer represent you during car accident mediation can give you greater peace of mind during the meeting. Your lawyer will make sure you do not agree to a settlement that diminishes the value of your claim.
No, mediation does not end in a judgment. A mediator does not have the power to impose a judgment on the issues discussed by the parties. Instead, the mediator’s job is to facilitate communication between the parties and come up with creative solutions. It is entirely up to the parties whether or not to agree to a settlement during mediation. The parties can choose to accept a mediator’s guidance and settle the case or go to trial.
If mediation for a car accident case succeeds, all parties involved will agree to a suggested settlement. Most settlements stipulate a date by which the insurance company must send you a check. For the most part, you can expect to receive a settlement check within about two weeks of achieving the settlement at mediation. If the insurance company unfairly delays your check, your lawyer can file a lawsuit against the carrier for bad faith.
For more information about mediation for a car accident case, consult with an attorney in Houston.