Mediation is a process whereby a neutral third party mediator serves as a facilitator between adverse parties attempting to reach a voluntary resolution of their dispute. It usually takes place in an informal setting such as in a conference room within an office. Generally, the parties agree on the location of the mediation. The mediation rarely occurs in the court house.
The mediator is certified by the State of Florida based upon qualifications, experience, skills and specified training. Normally, the parties agree to select the mediator. However, the Court can appoint a mediator, especially if the parties cannot agree upon one. The mediator is not a judge. The mediator does not make rulings and does not decide the outcome of the mediation. Generally, the mediator gathers information, identifies issues, assists in the communication process and guides the parties in creating options in order to resolve the dispute.
Generally, mediation is attended by the parties, their respective lawyers and a representative of an insurance company. With the consent of all parties, a non-party may attend the mediation. While the mediator and the participants are together in a joint session, the plaintiff's lawyer presents the case first. Then, the defendant presents the case. At the conclusion of the joint session, the mediator separates the plaintiff and the defendant into individual rooms. The parties continue to share facts, opinions and potential solutions to the dispute communicated through and facilitated by the mediator.
The conversations which occur at mediation are confidential. Confidentiality is a central part of mediation. Confidentiality allows the parties to freely express their thoughts, opinions, demands and offers in order to encourage resolution of the ongoing dispute without repercussions.
An important element of mediation is that the dispute be resolved voluntarily by the parties. If the parties resolve the dispute, a settlement is reached. The settlement is confirmed in a written agreement signed by the parties. The agreement is binding and is enforceable by the Court.
There are several benefits of settling the dispute at mediation. The parties control the result of their case as they decide on the terms by which the dispute is resolved. The parties avoid the risks associated with allowing jurors, who are strangers to the parties and to the case, to reach a conclusion for them. Resolving the dispute at mediation allows the parties to maintain their privacy as well. They avoid the stress and emotions associated with trial. Also, the parties avoid the time, attorney's fees and costs associated with proceeding forward through trial. In addition, mediation usually concludes within a day while lawsuits can take years to conclude. Further, trials can be rescheduled several times causing delays in concluding the lawsuit. Even if a party is successful at trial, the losing party may appeal the verdict. Resolving the dispute at mediation avoids the potential appellate process.