Dec 29, 2014

I want to talk to you for a few minutes about going to a settlement conference. Almost every case where a lawsuit has been filed, so a case that's in litigation, is going to travel. As it's navigating to trial, it's going to travel through a settlement conference. Most of the time courts even order the parties, before they can come to trial, to make effort at settling a case at a settlement conference.

First of all, most cases in our litigation process will settle, statistically, at the settlement conference. So it's a pretty important day in your case. When you get there, you're going to be greeted by a receptionist. You're going to tell that receptionist who you are, and they're going to take you to a conference room. For the rest of the day, you are probably going to be held up in that room.

You probably are not going to have much, if any, contact with the insurance company or with the attorney hired by the insurance company or with the person who maybe caused the injury to you. Sometimes they come, sometimes they don't. The only communication you will have is through a neutral, called a mediator. Now, the mediator is a person who has been hired, basically by both sides, your attorney and the other attorney, and is paid equally to try to facilitate settlement.

The next thing you need to understand is that you're going to be asked to make some decisions. The lawyer needs to spend some time with you before the settlement conference to talk about what some expectations you should have about your case. Generally, before you ever arrive at a settlement conference, your lawyer will have already told the neutral, the mediator, about your case in writing.

Generally, there will already have been an offer extended, your initial offer. That's usually a high number. It's higher than your lawyer should expect you to ever get. The reason is, the insurance company will come in real low. Their first offer, at a beginning day of a settlement conference, could just be a few hundred dollars. Sometimes the most successful settlement conference ends that way.

I rarely am disappointed in the outcome of a long settlement conference, even when it doesn't settle the case, because either we're going to end up settling the case because of the settlement conference or at least as your trial lawyer, by several hours of exchange of discussion with this mediator going from room to room and talking to us about the various issues and strengths and weaknesses of the various cases, I will almost always have a great idea of where all the 800 pound gorillas are in the defendant's case.

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