In 1995, mediation for all Superior Court cases in North Carolina became mandatory. Any personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit that is seeking $25,000 or more in damages fall into this category. The Mediated Settlement Conference Program provides the opportunity for confidential and frank settlement discussions for the parties, along with their attorneys and a neutral mediator.
The goal of these discussions is to resolve the case prior to expending money and time in preparation for trial and allow parties to have control in reaching a resolution (parties mutually agree to settle, the case isn’t decided by a third party such as a jury or judge). If the mediation is unsuccessful the parties’ right to a jury determining the outcome of the case is not affected. The proceedings guided by rules adopted by the North Carolina Supreme Court and North Carolina Dispute Resolution Commission.
What Happens During Mediation?
Mediation conferences are much more informal than court proceedings, however, it is important to remember that they are still legal proceedings and there are rules that need to be followed. Your North Carolina injury attorney will explain these rules, along with the entire process, to you. The mediator will also explain these ground rules at the start of the conference.
The location of the conference is usually at a location that has agreed upon by all the parties. Typically, the attorneys will each make opening statements and then the mediator will meet with each party separately. This is referred to as a caucus session. These sessions give each party the chance to privately discuss the case and settlement options with the mediator. The mediator will then share this information and any other concerns, along with offers and counteroffers, with the other party.
Keep in mind that the mediator does not make decisions or force a settlement offer on any party. The role of the mediator is to:
- Open channels of communication
- Help keep the parties’ discussions focused on the case
- Help each side see the strength and weaknesses in their case
- Discuss the benefits of settling
- Discuss options of document preparation if parties do reach a settlement
If the parties cannot reach a settlement agreement, then the case proceeds to trial to be decided by a judge or jury. If the case is to be decided by a jury, they will not be told of the mediation. Since everything that is said in mediation is confidential, nothing discussed during the mediation conference(s) – including any settlement offers – is allowed to be brought up during the trial.
Let Our Firm Help
If you have been injured in an accident caused by another party or parties, contact a North Carolina injury attorney from Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp for a free and confidential consultation.
Our firm has successfully represented many accident victims and we understand how frightening these injuries can be for families, not only dealing with the uncertainty of your loved one’s health, but also the financial worry about how you will be able to take care of their medical and personal needs. We are available to meet and discuss the circumstances of your case and advice you on what your legal options are and how we can help. Call our office today.