A Different Kind of Attorney

Mediation Explained

Mediation is one of several ways to settle your case. A mediation is the process in which all of the parties can participate in the negotiation and settlement of their case. A mediator is oftentimes an attorney, a retired judge or a person with special knowledge in a particular area of the law — but is not an attorney. The role of the mediator is to help the parties resolve their case — to facilitate a resolution — while staying neutral about who wins or loses.

For several years, I was a pro bono mediator for the Los Angeles County Bar Association. Besides being cost effective and quicker than arbitration or trial, mediation provides for unique settlement resolutions that could never occur in a courtroom. Among the many mediations I have conducted, there is one that still stands out in my mind.

In one case, a young mother was outraged that she was in an accident caused by a driver with alcohol on her breath at 11 o’clock in the morning! At the time, her two young children were with her in the car. The driver who caused the accident was an older woman with a minimum insurance policy and little else — except for a small house where she lived with her 90-year-old mother. The elderly woman was scared that she could lose her house if the victim got a judgment for more than her insurance policy. During the mediation, the young mother was getting more and more upset because the only thing she could focus on was that her children could have been killed by a drunk driver. In the end, what she really wanted was a written apology from the ‘drinking’ driver and for her to see a photograph of the two children who had been put in grave danger by her actions that day. The case settled, the young mother did show the drinking driver a photograph of her
two kids, and she got her written apology. Since the case settled within the insurance policy limits, the older woman would no longer have to worry about losing her home. Although no amount of money really makes up for all of the pain and suffering of an accident — not to mention all of the hassles of doctors and therapists and lost wages — the young mother went away feeling satisfied that her wishes were respected and met, by everyone working together to resolve the case.

Although most cases settle for a dollar amount, this case (and others) could never have had the same or even a similar outcome in trial or arbitration. For each of the parties involved, the settlement saved money, time and anxiety about their case. I’m not saying that a mediation takes away all of the stress that a lawsuit causes, but by participating in their own settlement, everyone left feeling pretty good about their results.