What is Mediation?

And the role of the mediator in reaching creative solutions to legal issues

By Andrew Brandt | Reviewed by Canaan Suitt, J.D. | Last updated on July 7, 2023 Featuring practical insights from contributing attorney Stephen S. Gealy

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If you’re never been involved in a legal dispute before—and you’ve been injured in an accident and are now seeking legal action—the mediation process may be the best way to resolve your claim.

“It’s a kinder and gentler way,” says Stephen Gealy, an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) expert at Baylor Evnen Wolfe & Tannehill in Lincoln. ”In a very real sense, it gives these people their day in court.”

Benefits of Mediation: Cheaper and Faster

Mediation is often both a cheaper and faster alternative than going to court for disputing parties.

Gealy explains that in the mediation process, both you and your lawyer are located in one room, while your legal opposition and their lawyer sit in another.

Throughout the mediation, which can often be completed in a single day, the mediator—who doesn’t work for either side—will go back and forth between the two rooms.

“There really aren’t any restrictions in the mediation process,” Gealy says. “The mediator goes back and forth from one room to the other to convey offers and demands, but also to discuss the finer legal points of the particular case in an effort to find some common ground.”

When I mediate… I have a pretty good idea about what a jury would hear and what options it would have based on what it hears. Parties can then make pretty informed decisions about whether they ought to settle the case, and what the risks are.

Stephen S. Gealy

Reaching a Settlement Agreement Through the Mediation Process

Often, Gealy sees a disconnect between the plaintiffs and the defendants. The plaintiff—the injured party—usually hasn’t been involved in the legal system before. The defendant, on the other hand, is usually backed by an insurance company.

“For the plaintiff, this is a personal situation. For the representative of an insurance company, it isn’t personal. It’s all in a day’s work for these folks to come to an informed decision about what amount they’re willing to pay,” he says.

Nevertheless, Gealy notes that the process lends itself well to personal injury cases because the rules of evidence, which apply to a court setting, don’t apply to mediation. “There isn’t anything that a party will not be allowed to talk about during the course of a mediation with a mediator,” he says.

“When I mediate… I have a pretty good idea about what a jury would hear and what options it would have based on what it hears,” he continues, reaffirming that mediators simply attempt to help both sides reach and acceptable resolution.

“Parties can then make pretty informed decisions about whether they ought to settle the case, and what the risks are. If they don’t settle the case, it becomes a bit of a ‘bird in the hand is worth two in the bush’ [situation].”

Mediation Works

In Gealy’s experience, more than 90 percent of the cases he mediates have settled without having to go to trial.

He adds that in Nebraska, for example, mediators generally charge between $250 and $400 per hour. “If you’re looking at a mediator who charges $300 per hour, you’d be looking at a range of $2,700 to maybe $4,000 for the entire mediation,” Gealy says. “And when you compare that with what it costs to take a case to trial, it just pales in comparison.”

Mediators in other jurisdictions may charge different rates depending on various factors, and fees are something you can ask about upfront.

Find an Experienced Mediator for Your Legal Dispute

Ultimately, if you do decide to have your case mediated, you will most often reach an agreement quicker and cheaper than if you take your claim to trial.

So, if you’ve been injured or hurt in an accident, or are facing a family law issue, consider using the Super Lawyers directory to seek legal advice and mediation services from a reputable and experienced mediator.

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