Mediation means different things to different people, but in general it’s an informal process to try to settle a lawsuit out of court. It’s often used after an injury case has been filed, but before it has gone to trial. The idea is to use a neutral third party (the mediator) to help get the dispute resolved in a way that everyone can live with.
The mediator can take a number of different approaches in his quest. One way mediators work is by assessing the case each side has and pointing out relative strengths and weaknesses to each side and expressing an opinion on how the case would ultimately be resolved if it went all the way to a jury verdict. This requires that the mediator be knowledgable and experienced when it comes to your type of case and injury.
Other forms of mediation involve a less active role by the mediator and he generally just tries to play peacemaker. Instead of assessing the case and predicting its outcome, the mediator just tries to find common ground between the parties and craft an agreement that everyone will sign off on.
Mediation is a path the settlement, that is an agreement between the parties reached out of court that ends the lawsuit. It can be court-ordered or voluntary. Because our court systems are more and more congested, mediation is becoming more and more important as a way to complete cases without complete judicial involvement.
Just like anything else, some mediators are great and some are pretty awful. Your Montana injury lawyer can help you select a mediator if it looks like your case is headed that way. And your attorney should attend the mediation with you, there will be a lot of tough legal questions to answer and issues to deal with before a good settlement can be reached.