When it comes to long-term disability cases, mediation plays a pivotal role. It’s a neutral process where a third-party mediator facilitates a discussion between you and the opposing side. If you find yourself heading into a mediation, understanding this process can relieve some of the stress and uncertainty.
Approximately 80% of mediations result in a settlement, which is a tremendous outcome that can alleviate the burden for claimants. Let’s delve into how one should prepare for a mediation and what happens during the process itself.
Preparing for a Mediation
About a week before the mediation, your lawyer will prepare a mediation brief. This brief outlines the argument supporting your case and why you meet the disability test. It will include medical evidence, references to your daily life, and updates on your treatment and its impact on your functionality.
Similarly, the defense counsel, representing the insurance company, will compile a brief explaining why you don’t qualify. While you may not agree with the defence counsel’s brief, it’s crucial to read it to be fully aware of their perspective.
The Day of the Mediation
Most mediations now occur virtually due to the pandemic. At the start, the mediator will emphasize the confidentiality of the process. This means you cannot record or disclose what transpires during the mediation.
Then your lawyer will present an opening statement, passionately refuting the defence’s argument and presenting the evidence supporting your case. Afterward, as the claimant, you will have an opportunity to speak. This is the chance for you to voice your struggles and explain why you can’t work. It’s often effective to speak from the heart and share your personal story.
After this, the defence counsel will present their opening statement, outlining their argument and setting out their case. The insurance company’s claim specialist will also give a brief opening statement, usually extending gratitude for your participation in the mediation process.
Negotiating a Settlement
Next, everyone will separate into their own private Zoom rooms. You and your lawyer will make an offer to settle, which the mediator will present to the defense counsel. This back-and-forth negotiation process typically involves four or five rounds of offers. An experienced mediator often bridges the gap when both sides are still apart, facilitating a compromise.
Once the terms of a settlement are agreed upon, you’ll sign a full and final release and sometimes minutes of settlement. Your lawyer will walk you through these documents to ensure you understand what you’re signing. Remember, a case is never settled without the client’s instructions and understanding of what they’re going to receive.
Mediations may seem daunting, but they’re a crucial and valuable step in the litigation process to help resolve your case.
1. Understand the Mediation Process: Mediation is a neutral process facilitated by a third-party mediator to help both sides reach a settlement.
2. Prepare Well: Prior to the mediation, your lawyer will prepare a mediation brief outlining your case. Reading the insurer’s brief will also help you understand their perspective.
3. Speak From the Heart: During the mediation, you’ll have the opportunity to share your story. Speak candidly about your struggles and why you can’t work.
4. Be Ready for Negotiation: The negotiation process involves several rounds of offers back and forth. An experienced mediator can help bridge the gap between both parties.
Remember, mediations can seem daunting, but they’re an integral part of the resolution process. Understanding the process can alleviate some of the stress involved. Always be prepared, speak from the heart, and be ready for negotiation.
At Kotak Law we represent clients who have been denied disability benefits. We find that mediation is a useful strategic tool in resolving