Though you may imagine your personal injury lawsuit turning into a dramatic episode fit for primetime television, in reality, many personal injury cases wind up in mediation. Many courts even mandate mediation as part of the pretrial process.
Expect low offers at first. Don't feel offended and call it quits when you get offers that you feel are too low. It's common for your side to come in too high and, on the flipside, the other party fielding figures that are too low. You'll feel tempted to cut the negotiations short, but that may lead to you selling yourself short. Be patient and let the negotiation process proceed at its natural pace.
Expect to hear unfamiliar legal terms. Mediation entails a set of vocabulary that your attorney knows well, but that may sound strange to you. When you hear negotiation terms -- such as conditional offers and leverage -- ask your attorney to explain them to you.
Expect the process to take some time. A mediation can take anywhere from a few hours or a full day to even multiple sessions. You will spend time in the same room as the other party as well as time in a separate room with the mediator, making and receiving offers, demands, and other necessary information. This is called caucusing.
Expect to compromise. If you want to reach a settlement, you'll have to make concessions. Unlike litigation, the only goal of mediation is to find a solution, not to find fault. Problem-solving requires a collaborative spirit. Communicate your bottom-line, identify what you're willing to be flexible about, and adapt to the situation as the mediation evolves.
Expect a signature or a trial. At the end of the mediation, a mutually agreed upon compensatory amount will become legally binding through a signed agreement. However, if one party or the other is not satisfied with the outcome of the mediation and refuses to sign, the agreement will not be binding, and the dispute can go to court.