What is mediation, and why should I agree to it?

Mediation is a process in which you, your attorney, and opposing attorney (if applicable) meet with a third party—a mediator—in an attempt to review your claim and to hopefully come up with an amicable resolution to settle your claim. The mediator does NOT have the power to render any decision in your case. That power remains with you. His only power is to declare an “impasse” if the parties cannot reach an agreement.


If your case is filed in North Carolina Superior Court, unless it is clear there are going to be no settlement discussions, and the parties agree—then the process is mandatory, meaning, you MUST go to mediation. It also means that the defendant must go to mediation and have someone such as an insurance adjuster available at the mediation or available during the mediation who has the authority to offer money on the claim.


The mediation is typically held in one of the attorneys’ conference rooms or at the mediator’s conference room. During mediation, an unbiased, experienced mediator, usually an attorney whom both parties agree to, will listen to your attorney and the defense attorney give their version of the strengths of their side of the case.


After that, typically, the parties will split up into two different rooms and the process of negotiation begins. At this point, it becomes a little like buying a car. During the course of these negotiations, the job of the mediator is to shuttle back and forth between the parties and utilize his or her experience and skills to facilitate a “meeting of the minds” and to get both parties to a number they can live with. This can take some time.


If this can be accomplished, the case is settled. If it cannot be accomplished, the mediator will declare an “impasse” and the case will subsequently proceed to trial.


Unlike North Carolina, in the Commonwealth of Virginia, with the exception of a few Circuit Court Cities, mediation is not mandatory; however, oftentimes when you have a claim the other side may get bogged down into seeing it “their way” only your opposing view is sometimes not properly considered, and the parties may both agree that a mediation is the best way to make an attempt to resolve the dispute. Then the attorneys, in consultation with their clients, may choose and agree on a mediator and set a date for the mediation.