Is Mediation Legally Binding?
Filing a suit does not always mean the case will head to a courtroom. One of the critical stages in many personal injury lawsuits is a mediation session, in which the parties can find common ground with the help of a neutral third party. If an agreement is made and signed by the parties after mediation, it is usually legally binding. However, the mediator’s suggestions are not.
How Does Mediation Work?
Often, when people imagine a personal injury case, their minds jump straight to the kinds of dramatic courtroom scenes that we see in the movies or on primetime TV. However, most claims are settled before they ever reach the trial stage. A series of negotiations between the injured party and an insurance company always takes place before trial. If these negotiations fail, the plaintiff then has the option to present the case before a judge.
One type of negotiation is mediation. It is a session overseen by a legal professional, such as an attorney or a retired judge, with extensive experience in alternative dispute resolution and personal injury law. This mediator can use their experience to give both parties a deeper understanding of their legal situation. These insights can often offer an opportunity to find common ground to reach an agreement acceptable to both parties.
While fees are involved in a mediation session, they are usually divided evenly between both parties. Mediation tends to be far less costly than allowing the case to proceed to trial. Mediation can often end in an agreement by the end of a single day, while trials can take several months or even years before they finally reach their conclusions. Therefore, it is usually in both parties’ interests to find a solution through mediation rather than spending valuable time and money on a courtroom trial.
However, a big difference between mediation sessions and courtroom trials is that a judge’s order or a jury’s verdict is legally enforceable. A mediator may offer a suggestion or a solution, but the parties will not be required to agree to anything they do not believe is in their best interests. Therefore, the mediation process results are not legally binding in the same way that the outcome of a court trial is.
Does Mediation Mean Settlement?
Rather than being a settlement in and of itself, mediation is a means to achieve a settlement. If both parties operate in good faith, the desired outcome in a mediation session is to reach an agreement that the two sides can find acceptable. Yet, even if this occurs, the only way the agreement becomes legally binding is if it is formalized in a contract or written mediation agreement signed by both parties.
Once the document is signed, both sides are legally bound to the terms of the agreement. Each party has the right to enforce the contract against the other. If either party breaks the terms of the agreement after it has been written and signed, they will face legal consequences, such as enforcement through court proceedings.
Can a Mediation Agreement Be Overturned?
Usually, if a mediation agreement is written and signed, it is not subject to being overturned. This is not generally a desirable outcome anyway. Both parties invested time and effort in the mediation session to reach the agreement and both parties agreed to the terms.
There are, however, a few rare circumstances in which a contract may not be legally enforceable. These are instances in which one of the parties enters into the contract:
- Under fraudulent misrepresentation
- Under mental incapacity
- Under undue influence or duress
- By mistake
- In illegal circumstances
If you believe that one of these factors may have applied to the situation in which you entered into a mediation agreement, you should speak to your attorney as soon as possible to address the issue.
Contact a Personal Injury Attorney from Chris Hudson Law Group
If you suffered injuries in an accident that was not your fault, you deserve compensation for your losses. Many complicated steps can be involved in filing a claim, which can easily be overwhelming when you are still dealing with the fallout of your injury.
Fortunately, the experienced personal injury attorneys of Chris Hudson Law Group in Augusta, Georgia, understand your situation, and we can take care of every step of the process for you. We specialize in a wide variety of types of personal injury cases. With us on your side, you will have a legal team who will fight aggressively for the full and fair compensation you deserve.
Read more: When Is Mediation Not A Good Idea?