The court may require you to participate in some form of mediation during your long term disability lawsuit, depending on where your case is located. Even if you aren’t required to mediate, your attorney may still recommend mediation because of its potential benefits for you. Knowing the benefits and opportunities mediation presents will help you understand what to expect and whether mediation is right for your long term disability lawsuit.
You May Get to Pick the Mediator
In court, your case will be randomly assigned to a judge. You have absolutely no control over which judge gets assigned in your long term disability lawsuit.
In mediation, you’ll usually get to pick, or at least help pick, the mediator. This will allow you to pick a neutral mediator that will be most effective for your case. For example, you could pick a mediator who has experience with ERISA long term disability disputes, or other relevant experience that may be beneficial to you.
Mediation Is Much Faster Than Litigation
It can take years to get a court decision while litigating your long term disability lawsuit. If your case is appealed, it may be many more years before you get a final decision. In some cases, the litigation may go on for a decade or more.
One of the top advantages of mediating your long term disability lawsuit is that it may only take a day or two to complete the process. If your case settles at mediation, you will be able to put the case beyond you and move on.
Mediation Is Less Expensive Than Litigation
Mediation is generally much less expensive than litigation. If you litigate your case, you will likely incur hefty attorneys’ fees and costs by the time the judge issues a decision. If you settle at mediation, you may save substantial fees and costs because there won’t be a trial, discovery, expert testimony, depositions, etc.
Notably, mediation is often provided as a free service by the court. The parties may also participate in private mediation, which may cost approximately $2,000 to $3,000. Although the costs of private mediation may be higher, a private mediation may give you access to a larger pool of potential mediators.
You Will Get to Participate In the Decision-Making Process
In litigation, the judge will make the decisions for you. This can be extremely frustrating if you disagree with the way the judge is handling your long term disability lawsuit.
In mediation, you will get a lot more control. You will get to participate in the negotiation process by expressing your concerns and priorities. You will also have the power to accept or reject any settlement offer.
The Settlement Discussions Are Confidential
Generally, all statements made for settlement purposes during mediation are confidential. This means that your confidential statements cannot later be used against you in court.
By having the benefit of confidentiality, you will have the opportunity to discuss your position and concerns more candidly than you would in court. Since the insurance company’s settlement statements are also confidential, you may learn information about the insurance company’s motives and priorities that you would not otherwise hear about in court.
This exchange of confidential information may provide you with useful insight into the insurance company’s thought process and case strategy.
The Mediator Cannot Force You to Settle Your Long Term Disability Lawsuit
In court, the judge will decide (or dismiss) your case based on questions or fact and/or law. You do not have any direct control over the judge’s decision.
In mediation, the mediator has no authority to order the parties to settle. The mediator can only help the parties reach a mutually agreeable settlement, which is usually in the interest of all parties. Both parties can walk away from settlement discussions at any time.
If the parties do not settle, your case will go back to the judge for a decision. Once the case goes back to the judge, the parties can still participate in another mediation at any time.
The Mediation Outcome Cannot Be Appealed
The mediation outcome is final. The settlement agreement cannot be appealed in court. Therefore, you won’t have to worry about being dragged back into court once your settlement agreement is executed. Your long term disability lawsuit will be over.
Mediation Can Be Less Stressful
The adversarial nature of lawsuits is unquestionably stressful. If the litigation is hotly contested, you should expect your stress level to be very high.
Mediations, however, are non-adversarial in nature. The parties are generally working toward an agreeable settlement, rather than arguing to “win.” Most plaintiffs find the process to be far less stressful.
Mediations Are Private
Lawsuits are generally public in nature. Unless the judge seals the record, which usually only be allowed under narrow circumstances, anyone will be able to see the court filings in your case. This means that your family, neighbors, past employers, or even the press could review the filings in your case.
This is a particularly important consideration for a long term disability lawsuit, which will necessarily involve a lot of private information. The court filings will likely discuss your medical history, salary, and work history. It can feel like a violation of your privacy.
By contrast, mediations are private. The discussions will not be available in any public forum. In fact, the parties usually agree not to divulge any settlement discussions or terms with others. This can help protect your privacy.
Mediations Are Less Formal
In court, your case will be subject to the rules of the court, case law, and the rules of evidence. At times, the rules can make it frustrating to build your case.
In mediation, the rules are much more relaxed. The process is usually only subject to the mediator’s discretion. Even then, the parties can override the mediator. This can make it much easier to demonstrate your case in a way that may not be permissible in court.