Settlement may happen after we make a demand on your behalf to an insurance company or a defendant. A demand is a detailed written document that outlines the defendant’s liability (responsibility/fault), the law that makes them liable (responsible), and the harm or damages you have suffered and are entitled to. Our staff are experts in preparing successful demand packages to achieve maximum settlement amounts for our clients.
Settlement may happen after your case has been filed and the parties have begun the process of exchanging information called discovery.
Sometimes it happens through a process called alternative dispute resolution, or ADR. This is an attempt use a neutral third party, unconnected with your case, to help the sides come to a resolution. It is an “alternative” to trial. ADR usually comes in one of two forms, mediation or arbitration. The Dolan Law Firm lawyers have been through hundreds of arbitrations and mediations, achieving outstanding results for their clients.
Mediation and arbitration have one thing in common: They both employ a neutral party as a facilitator. This is a mediator (mediation) or arbitrator (arbitration). Usually, they are experienced lawyers who, after years of representing people through the litigation process, have dedicated themselves to dispute resolution (seeing how difficult litigation can be on clients) or retired judges with years of experience hearing these cases. The role of the neutral party in the two processes, however, is quite different.
Mediation is an informal process where the parties express their legal positions in an effort to reach a compromise by mutual agreement. The mediator’s role is part facilitator, part devil’s advocate, and part sounding board. The mediator does not hold a trial, she/he does not rule on legal objections and she/he does not render an opinion on the merits or value of the case. The mediator, using his/her experience, tries to point out the strengths and weaknesses of a party’s position and/or case in an effort to cause the parties to more clearly evaluate their risk and/or probability of recovery. If the parties can come together and close the gap, the case is settled. If they do not come to an agreement, the case can proceed to trial. Neither side may use any statement made at mediation later at trial. What is stated at mediation is confidential and stays at mediation.
Arbitration is a mini trial. The arbitrator is appointed as a temporary judge by the court and hears evidence like a jury would through witnesses and/or documents. The arbitrator makes rulings of law and fact and, after hearing the evidence, issues a ruling as to liability (fault), comparative fault, and the nature and amount of damages, if any. This decision is written into the form of an order. The parties have 30 days from the date of the order to reject the ruling. If they do not reject the ruling, it becomes a final judgment, is entered into the court record and the case is over with that order controlling the rights and responsibilities of the parties. If one side rejects the award as being too high or too low and the matter goes through a trial, the party that rejected the award must have a result more favorable to their side or they may be held responsible for the other side’s costs from the time the award was rendered through the trial. This can be tens of thousands of dollars. This cost shifting provision acts as an incentive to parties to resolve their matter outside of a trial and to only proceed to trial if they have facts and evidence that support a result different than that awarded by the arbitrator.