Is Mediation Legally Binding?
Posted on Sunday, January 15th, 2023 at 9:35 am
Mediation alone is not usually legally binding. However, the purpose of mediation is to arrive at a settlement agreement that can be made legally binding once the agreement is set out on paper and signed by all parties. Mediation can be court-ordered, though such an order is rare in personal injury cases.
What Is Mediation?
Mediation is a popular form of alternative dispute resolution because it has a decent success rate and can save the parties money. The purpose of mediation is for parties to have a transparent conversation about their case, facilitated by a neutral third party. The presence of a mediator may help the parties reach a settlement agreement after independent settlement negotiations have failed.
Typically, mediation will begin with the parties and the mediator introducing themselves so that everyone understands the roles that each person plays. Then, each party will sign a confidentiality agreement acknowledging that they understand that nothing said during mediation can be disclosed during a trial.
After each party signs confidentiality agreements, they will make their opening statements. Depending on the complexity of your case, opening statements can last a few minutes, or they can last over an hour. During opening statements, the parties will present their cases. They can also present evidence that could be used at trial, such as photos, exhibits, and medical records.
An experienced plaintiff’s attorney might also use their opening statement to explain their settlement demand in detail and include the justification for that demand.
Once opening statements conclude, the mediator will put the parties in different rooms. The mediator will conduct the rest of the mediation session. They will go back and forth between the rooms to discuss the case and settlement options with the party.
The mediator may ask questions to establish the strengths and weaknesses of each party’s position. They can also offer alternative settlement options for the parties to consider. However, the mediator does not have the authority to make judgments. Instead, their job is to facilitate transparent conversations between the parties so that they can settle.
Does Mediation Mean Settlement?
Participating in mediation does not mean that you will enter a settlement agreement. One of the benefits of mediation is that it is not legally binding. Mediation will only become legally binding if a settlement agreement is entered into and signed. All of the interested parties must sign this settlement agreement.
What Happens If Mediation Is Successful?
Mediation will be considered successful if it ends with a settlement. If the parties reach a settlement during mediation and enter a settlement agreement, the agreement will become a legally enforceable contract.
Violating a legally enforceable contract will result in not only the original case going to court, but it can also result in additional claims against the breaching party for a breach of contract. Under certain circumstances, a settlement agreement will be unenforceable. The circumstances include:
- A party was under the age of consent
- Duress was applied
- Undue influence was applied
- The contract was for an illegal purpose
- Misrepresentation of material facts by a party
When a settlement agreement is entered in a personal injury lawsuit, it will be entered with the court for its review and approval before the lawsuit is dismissed. If the agreement is found to be unenforceable, the court will not accept the settlement agreement. When the court refuses to accept a settlement agreement, the lawsuit will proceed as if the mediation were unsuccessful.
What Happens If Mediation Is Unsuccessful?
If mediation does not end with a legally binding settlement agreement, it will be considered an unsuccessful mediation. However, the information gained during mediation could help the parties reach an independent settlement agreement before they go to trial.
After an unsuccessful mediation, the case will continue to trial. The parties, however, can still negotiate a settlement agreement. The negotiations can happen right up until the moment the judge or jury enters a verdict.
Contact Us Today
Mediation might be the best option if your goal is to avoid a costly trial but get the compensation you deserve. Mediation is only successful if the parties are willing to work together to reach a fair settlement. The attorneys of Lawrence & Associates Accident and Injury Lawyers, LLC are experienced Cincinnati personal injury attorneys who will build a strong case that increases your chances of successful mediation.
If mediation is unsuccessful, our legal team will represent you at trial and fight for you to receive the compensation you deserve. Contact the skilled and knowledgeable personal injury attorneys of Lawrence & Associates Accident and Injury Lawyers, LLC today to discuss your legal options during a free consultation. Call us at (513) 351-5997 or contact us through our online form.