Mediation is a dispute resolution process as an alternative to trial. It is similar to arbitration, but significantly is voluntary and non-binding.
Over the past decade in Virginia, mediation has gained in popularity. Competing private companies comprised principally by many retired judges and secondarily by some practicing lawyers sprout yearly.
Given the delays, expenses and risks of trial and appeal, lawyers increasingly are resorting to mediation after discovery in substantial nursing home, other medical malpractice, vehicle accident, product or premises defect, sexual abuse and other personal injury cases. Of course, mediation costs are not trifling: mediators command from a low of $200.00 to more than $500.00 per hour for all time expended on the case.
Typical mediation protocol is lawyers submit confidential concise case summaries and possibly limited materials the mediator and briefly confer with the mediator shortly before the parties and they are convened in a law office. At the mediation session itself, the mediator provides a brief overview of the process; all present sign a confidential mediation agreement; each side may present an abbreviated opening/closing-type statement; the parties retire to separate rooms; and the mediator then runs “shuttle diplomacy” between the two camps, pointing out strengths and weaknesses to each, giving personal opinion and valuations, and trying to bring the parties together on some common if not middle ground.
The injection of the neutral mediator into the adversial and off-times acrimonious or distrustful dynamic between the parties and their lawyers provides a critical modicum of objectivity and confidence. Hence, cases of wrongful death, brain injuries, and other significant personal injury with a seemingly insurmountable gulf between the parties often is bridged by a skillful proactive mediator.