Will I Be Required to See a Mediator for My Car Accident Claim?
An Oklahoma car crash victim can seek compensation by suing the driver who was at fault for the collision. However, the accident victim may be required to go through a process called mediation first. In this article, our Oklahoma City personal injury lawyers will explain how mediation works — and what happens when it doesn’t work.
What is Mediation? What Happens During a Settlement Conference?
Car accidents often result in serious injuries — and in turn, hefty medical bills for the victim. According to Healthcare Bluebook, a consumer service that lists fair pricing for various medical procedures and devices, you’re likely to pay around $8,850 for surgery to repair a broken nose — and that’s just the reasonable cost. If you fractured a few vertebrae and need back surgery after a car accident, you can expect to pay closer to $50,000. Even a fairly routine procedure like an MRI can cost you well over $1,000 — and if you need a cast, be prepared to tack another few hundred onto the bill. To make financial matters even more stressful, the very injuries that cause these expenses also keep the victim out of work, meaning he or she is short on income at the very time it’s needed most.
Fortunately, accident victims aren’t necessarily stuck with these expenses. If the crash that injured you was caused by the other driver, you may be able to get compensated by filing a lawsuit. (In fact, you may be able to get compensated even if the crash was partly your fault, a subject we covered in our article on getting compensated for an accident with partial fault.) However, it is likely that a judge will require you to go through mediation before your case can go to trial.
Mediation is commonly used to help settle a wide range of legal conflicts and disagreements, ranging from divorce cases to business disputes. Litigation — in other words, filing a lawsuit and going to court — also aims to settle legal disputes, though through very different means.
In litigation, the plaintiff and defendant each present evidence to the court, which ultimately renders a decision favoring one party over the other. In a mediation session, which is also called a settlement conference, parties try to work out a mutually acceptable solution amongst themselves.
Mediation is overseen by a trained mediator, who acts as a neutral third party to help keep the proceedings focused, efficient, and civil. A mediator does not have the same legal authority as a judge, and cannot issue a judgment compelling either party to take a certain action. He or she can, however, issue recommendations (which you are free to ignore).
Both litigation and mediation have pros and cons for accident victims. While mediation can be a hugely useful tool, it is not always an adequate strategy for resolving every legal matter. In some situations, litigation proves to be the only effective means of ending a contentious dispute between an accident victim and an insurance company.
About Oklahoma’s Mediation Program
The Oklahoma Insurance Department (OID) offers a free mediation program called EAGLE, which stands for Ending Arguments Gently, Legally, and Economically. EAGLE receives about 55,000 complaints and inquiries from Oklahomans across the state on an annual basis.
The OID has “limited authority” with regard to third-party claims, or claims you make with the other driver’s insurer instead of your own (which would be a first-party claim). However, the Department notes that EAGLE has successfully settled claims of this type in the past. Additionally, EAGLE participants retain the right to go to court if mediation fails to resolve the dispute.
If it sounds like a lot to manage, don’t worry. Your attorney will be there by your side to protect your rights and help you understand the legal considerations involved, so that you can make an informed, strategic decision. Remember, no one can ever force you to accept a settlement offer you are not comfortable with.
Injured in a Crash? Call An Oklahoma Personal Injury Lawyer
Indeed, you should never sign a settlement agreement without first having the offer reviewed by an experienced Oklahoma car accident lawyer. Contacting an attorney should be one of your first steps to take after a car accident. In most instances, the initial offer is drastically lower than the injury victim’s actual costs and losses. The attorneys of Hasbrook & Hasbrook have built a reputation for providing tough and aggressive representation in settlement negotiations, and we are more than prepared to take your case to court if the need arises.
If you or one of your loved ones was injured in an automotive accident in Oklahoma City or the surrounding area, Hasbrook & Hasbrook may be able to help you get compensated. Call our law offices at (405) 698-3040 right away to set up a free legal consultation. We handle accident claims in Edmond, Moore, Norman, Shawnee, McLoud, and more.