When a personal injury lawsuit is filed, the defendant is not required to take any action until properly served. Once the defendant has been served with the lawsuit, they will have a designated time period in which to respond. Typically, the defendant's insurance company will file a denial. This is standard operating procedure and does not mean that the defendant is claiming your allegations to be false. Instead, the defendant's lawyers are requiring you to document and present proof of your claims.
The next phase of a personal injury or wrongful death case is known as "discovery." During the discovery process, both parties seek to learn as much as possible about the evidence each side has documented, such as the information provided by an eye witness at the accident scene. Depositions will likely be taken from the plaintiff, the defendant and witnesses during this phase. Everyone's statement is made under oath with a court reporter taking down the testimony so it can be presented to the judge or jury during an actual trial.
Before a personal injury lawsuit goes to trial, the plaintiff and defendant are encouraged to participate in mediation. Mediation is a settlement conference with each parties' attorneys present. The process is facilitated by an experienced mediator who is most often an attorney or former judge that has special training. The initial session usually starts with both sides (including their attorneys) in one room with the mediator. Each side makes an opening statement. Then, the defendant and plaintiff are separated and spend the remainder of the mediation session in different rooms. The mediator will go from room to room restating points to help both parties reach an agreed settlement.
Many accident lawsuits are resolved without going trial. However, if no settlement is reached during mediation, the case proceeds to the courtroom. At that point, nothing said at the mediation hearing can be used against either partyduring the subsequent trial. In other words, the entire course of the unsuccessful mediation session must remain strictly confidential. So, the answer to the question of whether participating in mediation can hurt your case once it proceeds to trial, is NO.
To learn more about how mediation may apply to your case, contact Grossman Law Firm in The Woodlands, Humble and Houston. As a leading Houston personal injury trial lawyer, Mr. Grossman is also certified in the field of mediation through the University of Houston Law Center Blakely Advocacy Institute and has successfully represented cases for more than 35 years.