It is rare that an automobile accident case ends up in United States District Court, but when one does, it is subject to the federal court’s mandatory mediation program. In 2008, Lipsitz & Ponterio represented a fifty-year-old plaintiff who, as a result of a car accident, suffered an injury requiring a two-level cervical fusion. Automobile accident cases are ordinarily resolved in state court. However, because the defendant was a citizen of Ontario and even though the injury took place here in New York, the defendant was entitled to have his case heard in federal court, on the somewhat antiquated theory that a federal judge would ensure that he would be given a fair trial, something the local state court system might not have provided.
As a direct result of the defendant’s negligence, our client has endured substantial pain and suffering since the accident in January 2006. At first, our client decided against surgery and opted instead for a two and a half year course of physical therapy, chiropractic treatment, massage therapy, acupuncture, epidural steroid injections and facet blocks. Because these conservative treatments did not fully relieve our client’s symptoms, she finally decided to proceed with surgery.
In the federal court system, mediation is a flexible, non-binding, confidential process, where a qualified neutral (or mediator) facilitates resolution of the issues between the parties and assists with settlement discussions. The mediation process is an alternative to a trial, and it helps individuals communicate with one another to determine if it is possible to reach an agreement that satisfies both parties’ needs. This process often saves a great deal of time and money along the way.
In mediation, there are no judges or juries to make final, binding decisions; the parties themselves make their own agreements, and a mediator oversees discussions between parties. Benefits of mediation vary, depending upon a client’s needs and interests. In short, pretrial mediation is a useful tool in obtaining early resolution of cases.
On average, most cases that go through the mediation process are settled in seven months, whereas lawsuits can take three years or longer. As soon as the plaintiff retained Lipsitz & Ponterio in December 2008, we aggressively moved the case forward. Through the use of pre-trial mediation, we were able to settle the case in four months for $475,000. By using mediation as a form of alternative dispute resolution, our attorneys achieved a fair result for our client that might never have been obtained by going through the years it typically takes to reach a trial by jury.