Thursday, May 5, 2011

How To Prepare For A Settlement Conference

Settlement conferences resolve lawsuits before a trial.

A settlement conference, in general, is a meeting between two parties trying to resolve a dispute. The parties will usually agree on a mediator. The designated mediator will attempt to bring the parties together. Settlement conferences are routinely used in both the federal and state courts, and are even entered into before a lawsuit is filed. Settlement conferences are routinely used in labor disputes, corporate battles and by any two or more parties wanting to resolve a dispute.

Consider whether the matter is ready to go to a settlement conference. Settlement conferences are usually done only after all evidence has been gathered by both parties and the issues of dispute clearly defined. In preparation for a settlement conference, the parties will usually have a fair assessment of each party's weakness or advantages. In civil lawsuits the parties will have an in-depth knowledge of all damages incurred and the degree of relative fault.

Decide on the forum that will be followed at the settlement conference. Both parties must mutually agree on a neutral mediator and usually a neutral location. Most private mediators are usually lawyers who have chosen to provide this service. Any matter presently before a court can be ordered by the judge to go to a settlement conference, or agreed upon by the parties. The settlement conference may be mediated by the actual judge or magistrate. Both state and federal courts have procedural rules dealing with the specifics of court-ordered mediation. The most important thing, is to make sure the mediator is unbiased, and has successful experience in mediation.

Prepare for the settlement conference as you would for a trial. Both sides will have an opportunity to voice their opinions and offer relevant evidence on their behalf. In the event any bodily injuries are involved, be sure to have present all medical bills and records. There should be a narrative letter from the treating doctor stating the incident at issue caused the medical problems at issue, and the treating doctor should provide a prognosis as to any permanent impairment or future medical needs. Other experts may have been retained, and their final reports should also be available at the settlement hearing. All invoices and any out-of pocket expenses should be in everyone's possession at the conference.

A winning settlement is a fair and reasonable settlement

Be willing to compromise. During any settlement negotiations both sides should be reasonable and willing to accept a fair and reasonable offer. A wise technique is to make small adjustments at a time in your settlement demands. The mediator, after opening comments from both parties, will ultimately separate the parties with their respective representative/attorney. The mediator will then go from party to party, stationed in separate rooms with their representative, conveying the outstanding offers on the table. A typical settlement conference may have dozens or more offers and counter-offers during the negotiations. Remember that a winning settlement is a fair and reasonable settlement, and will avoid a costly and time consuming trial or continued losses to both sides if not resolved.

David Burlison practiced law for 25 years In Tennessee and Mississippi. He has traveled extensively throughout the world, and once lived and worked in the U.S. Virgin Islands. He has published numerous articles with Demand Studios, Ezine Articles, GoTo Articles and Hubpages. His publications have covered subjects dealing with law, travel and varrious social issues.

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