How Long after Deposition is Arbitration? Personal Injury Cases

People involved in a personal injury case often wonder who long after depositions mediation may happen.  In many personal injury cases, meditation is recommended and encouraged, but many people who are pursuing a personal injury claim are experiencing the legal system for the first time and do not fully know how the system will process their request.  They may not understand what and why depositions or mediations happen.  Understanding the definitions and uses for each process is important to forming a full strategy for trial and whether mediation and settlement is the best option or if they should move forward with litigation.  Attorneys will often guide the parties through the claim, but the parties must understand the process to make wise decisions moving forward.  This article will define both depositions and meditations and then describe how both processes fit within the typical personal injury case.

Depositions

Depositions are a discovery tool that allows one of the parties to question another party about the case.  Discovery is the process of gathering evidence and evaluating a case.  Depositions allow the parties to discover new facts while also evaluating the strength of the case and see if they can gain any damaging information from the other party.  This questioning happens under oath, so the parties are required to be truthful and not exaggerate.  Any inconsistent statement from this period may be used later in litigation.  This will usually happen in a place agreed on by the parties and is typically controlled by the attorneys.  Once the deposition is requested, attendance is mandatory.

Depositions are most commonly taken by defendants in personal injury cases to gain a better understanding of the strength of the claim.  The party that requested the deposition will ask questions of the other party that will depend on the nature of the case, but common topics are:

  • Personal Information: The deposition will usually start with simple information, such as where the party works, their name, and their history with the legal system.    
  • Prior Health History: The deposing party will often seek to gather whether the injured party had any other possible conditions that may have caused the injury.  They do this by asking about the injured party’s health history before the accident.  This type of information can be beneficial when there are questions about the seriousness of the injury or the exact cause.
  • Details of Injury: The deposing party will also ask about the accident and injury to gather a full picture of the plaintiff’s version of the facts.  This allows the party to have a written statement of how the injury took place to bring up if there are inconsistencies.
  • Life After: They may also ask about how the injuries affect the person’s life moving forward.  This is to have a clearer picture of how the injury affected the plaintiff’s life and how much damage it caused.

After deposition, the parties will have a better understanding of the case and what the best path forward may be.  It is important to be prepared for depositions because it will strengthen a case if done correctly and can harm a case if it goes poorly.

Mediation

Mediation is a process that brings the parties together with a neutral third party known as the mediatory.  A mediator will bring the parties together to settle the case and have the parties discuss the possibilities.  Mediation is a voluntary, confidential process that gives the parties the space to discuss how the case could be resolved Mediation is often faster than litigation when successful, and it can be more cost-effective.  However, mediation is not binding, so it does not need to settle, and the parties can choose to move forward with litigation and forgo a mediated settlement.  Mediation can be helpful when the parties are struggling to overcome counteroffers that are close but cannot get over one hurdle.  The mediator can bring the parties together and encourage them to consider new ideas.

While each mediator has their own style and adapts to the needs of the parties, mediation does follow a common pattern when the parties are debating how to approach the case.  These steps are:

  1. Mediator’s Opening: The mediator will begin the session by asking the parties to come together to hear about the process and introduce themselves.  The mediator will give the parties an overview of the rest of the process, establish ground rules such as confidentiality, and provide any further information that the parties may need, such as any conflict of interest.
  2. Party Opening: During a party’s opening, they will present their version of the facts that led to the case and why they think they should recover or not pay.  This is the only time to fully lay out the issue with the other party and the mediator in the room, so it is important to fully present the facts and law with allows the case to move forward.
  3. Caucuses: After giving opening statements, many mediators will separate the parties to help get a better understanding of the case from each side.  This allows the parties to speak freely with the mediator about what they need or want out of the settlement.
  4. Negotiation: Once the parties are separated, they will likely begin to start negotiating.  One of the parties will present an offer and the other party will counter.  The parties will continue trading offers back and forth and discussing creative ways to settle the dispute.
  5. Agreement: At the end of the day, the parties will either have a signed mediation agreement or will agree to leave without a settlement agreement.  Many cases settle before trial, and even if mediation does not result in a settlement, it may increase the chances the case will settle later on.

Mediation allows the parties to get creative and work collaboratively to resolve their dispute.  Personal injury mediation allows the parties to feel like their needs are met.

Depositions and Mediations Within the Process

Both depositions and mediations are used in a typical personal injury case. Each personal injury case will have its own process, personal injury cases will usually follow a set pattern.

  1. Attorney: Typically, a personal injury case will begin when the injured party finds and secures a personal injury attorney.
  2. Investigation: The attorney will often run an investigation of the incident and find out any more information before the case officially begins.   
  3. File: After the injured party has investigated, they will often send a demand letter requesting relief. If this is not answered, the personal injury case will be filed.
  4. Discovery (Depositions): The parties will then proceed with the discovery period, where they continue to gather and evaluate evidence of the injury and the possible defenses.  This is where depositions fit in with the process.
  5. Negotiation/Mediation: After discovery, the parties may being to discuss settlement, especially if one side is sensing that their case may not be strong.  This is where mediation fits into the process.
  6. Trial: If no settlement is completed, the parties will continue with trial and appeals if necessary.

Mediation will often take place shortly after discovery and depositions, although there is often no specific timeframe.  Discovery allows the parties the ability to evaluate their case and know where they would settle.  Depositions and mediation are powerful tools for personal injury cases, and when used effectively, they can shape the outcome of the case.

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