Now that depositions are completed, the case can now be fairly evaluated by both sides for possible settlement.
Mediation. Almost every personal injury case will go to mediation. Either the attorneys will agree to attend mediation or the court will order mediation. Mediation is an informal settlement conference. Both sides will meet at the mediator’s office. The mediator will work with each side individually discussing the pros and cons of their case in an effort to get the parties to come to some sort of agreement. Many times mediation is successful in reaching a settlement, and sometimes it is not. Because settlement is completely voluntary, the mediator does not decide the case nor can the mediator force the parties to settle. If the mediator is successful in getting the parties to settle the case, then a short settlement agreement will be signed at the mediation. Even though the parties will execute more formal settlement documents after the mediation, the agreement signed at the mediator’s office is legally binding.
Trial. If the parties are unable to settle their case, then the case will most likely go to trial. The court will set your case for trial depending on the court’s docket. The case can be tried before the judge or a jury. In order for the case to be tried before a jury, one of the parties must request a jury trial. Unlike mediation, the insurance adjuster does not participate in the trial of the case, except maybe as a spectator. Legally speaking, the trial is between the two named parties to the suit. If it is a car accident case, then the plaintiff would be the injured party, while the defendant will be the other driver. The insurance adjuster is not mentioned during the trial, nor is the defendant’s insurance company. This is probably the most frustrating aspect of a typical personal injury trial. Throughout the entire case the injured party is dealing with the insurance adjuster. Then when it comes to trial, the jury only sees the actual parties to the accident and doesn’t even know whether or not insurance is involved at all. Some states do allow direct actions against the insurance company in a personal injury case, but not Texas. The jury only sees and hears from the two parties, any witnesses, and the lawyers.
I hope you enjoyed my four-part series on the stages of a typical personal injury lawsuit. My purpose was to take the mystique out of the process and make it more understandable to the layman. However, do not substitute these articles for competent legal representation. These articles are only intended to serve as basic information.; They are not intended to act as a “do-it-yourself” guide to handling your own case. If you are the victim of an injury caused by the negligence of another, then contact and retain a lawyer to represent you.