What is mediation?
Mediation is a process through which parties attempt to work out a resolution to their dispute with the assistance of a person, called a mediator, who is not involved in the dispute and is not related to the parties in any way. The mediator cannot require any party to agree to any particular settlement. However, a mediator try to help a party see the strengths or weaknesses of his claim, the potential costs and time constraints involved if the dispute must be resolved through a court trial, and possible approaches to settlement. In Gunnison County and in many other areas, the District Court usually requires parties to attend a mediation conference or some other form of alternative dispute resolution since this often leads to settlement of a case without the need for a trial. Parties can also agree to participate in mediation even if no lawsuit has been filed.
Who pays for the mediation? -- Usually, the parties split the cost of the mediatorís services and the parties pay for their own attorneys, if they bring an attorney to the mediation. However, the parties can agree on a different cost-sharing arrangement, either before the mediation or as part of a settlement worked out in a mediation.
What is the advantage of mediation? -- As one judge likes to say, mediation offers the parties a way to work out a resolution of a dispute themselves, rather than having a judge or jury determine the outcome. The parties can even agree to steps that could not be part of a judgment in a trial. For example, one party may agree to take certain steps to avoid future accidents of the type that led to an injury or to issue an apology letter. It is also much, much cheaper to resolve a case through mediation than to pursue resolution of a dispute in the courts.
Finally, mediation is private. While a court trial is public, a mediation is not open to the public. Only the parties attend, along with their lawyers. If other persons are going to attend, it should be discussed with the mediator in advance. (Most commonly, the non-related person attending is a representative of an insurance company that will be liable for all or some of the payments that may be agreed to in a mediation.) All statements made in a mediation are confidential and cannot be used against a party if the case doesnít settle and goes to trial. Also, a party can meet alone with the mediator and tell the mediator things that the party is not ready to share with the other side. Sometimes, this helps a mediator see how a case can be resolved.