Is Mediation Legally Binding?
Posted on Thursday, December 15th, 2022 at 8:45 pm
When a person suffers injuries in an accident, life can turn upside-down instantly. Physical pain is often only one part of the challenge. They may need expensive and ongoing medical treatment that requires them to miss work for days, weeks, or longer. Some people’s injuries lead to disabilities that prevent them from returning to work altogether. The overwhelming financial stress can lead many people to despair. Personal injury claims exist to help people who were injured by someone else’s wrongdoing recover compensation for their injuries and other losses.
A personal injury case has several stages. After you consult with your attorney about the accident, they will investigate the circumstances to determine who is liable for your injuries and other losses. Your lawyer will then try to negotiate a settlement with the at-fault party’s insurance company. Yet if the insurer refuses to compensate you for the full extent of your losses, you may need to file a personal injury lawsuit.
Before you head to court, however, you may have the opportunity to reach a settlement agreement through mediation. Understanding the purpose of mediation and its consequences can help you feel prepared for what lies ahead.
What Is Mediation?
Mediation is a type of alternative dispute resolution in which a neutral legal professional (the “mediator”) helps the parties find a way of resolving their issues. In a personal injury case, the goal of mediation is to help the opposing sides understand the practical and legal reality of the situation between them so they can reach a mutually beneficial settlement.
During the process, which often only lasts a day, the mediator will speak with the parties and their attorneys, both together and individually. These communications will help them ascertain any impediments to settlement, as well as any potential points of agreement. Successful mediation sessions can save both parties significant amounts of time and money, so reaching a favorable outcome would be beneficial to both parties.
Do a Mediator’s Suggestions Carry Any Legal Weight?
Throughout the mediation session, the mediator will offer suggestions to help the parties come together. Yet because these suggestions do not carry the same legal weight as a court order or a jury’s verdict, neither you nor the defendant has any obligation to accept the mediator’s propositions. You are free to accept or reject them at any point.
Does Mediation Mean Settlement?
While the mediation process does not directly equate to settlement, its purpose is to create an avenue to enable settling. When two parties with vastly different starting points work in good faith during a session, they can make surprising progress.
If the mediation concludes with you and the defendant deciding to settle, you will draw up a contract and sign it. Only at this point does the mediation agreement become legally binding. Once the formal mediation agreement is in place, either party can face legal consequences if they are in breach of contract.
When Is a Mediation Settlement Not Legally Binding?
In most cases, upholding the agreement is in the best interests of both parties. However, as with all contracts, some circumstances can lead to the nullification of a mediation agreement. Such instances include:
- When one party used fraudulent misrepresentation to get the other party to sign
- If either party signed under duress or undue influence
- If a party was mentally incapacitated at the time of signing
- If either party signed the contract mistakenly
- If the contract was intended to accomplish an illegal act
If you believe any of the above circumstances apply to your mediation agreement, speak with your attorney as soon as possible.
Contact an Experienced Beaumont Personal Injury Attorney
If you have suffered injuries in an accident in Texas, the knowledgeable and skilled lawyers at Portner Bond, PLLC understand the challenges you are currently facing. Our Beaumont-based attorneys have more than 70 years of combined legal experience handling all types of personal injury cases. We have the experience to fight for the compensation you deserve.
Nobody deserves to suffer financially because of an injury another party caused. Our attorneys offer aggressive representation at every stage of a personal injury claim, from negotiations with the insurer to mediation. If necessary, we will build a strong case so we can fight for you in court as well. Let us do the legal heavy lifting while you focus on your recovery. Call the Beaumont personal injury attorneys of Portner Bond, PLLC today at (409) 838-4444 or contact us online for a free consultation and learn more about how we can help you.