In a Colorado mediation, a neutral official (called a “mediator”) gives each party an opportunity to tell their side of the story and then works constructively to resolve it. Mediators are often lawyers and sometimes retired judges and typically have specialized training that enables them to take on a role different from that of an advocate. Mediation may be an attractive alternative to litigation when the parties have not been able to reach an agreement. Before the mediation, your attorney will send materials to the mediator so they have an idea of the details of the case. In the personal injury context, those materials include medical records and statements of witnesses. After that, the parties are guided by the mediator in an effort to reach a settlement.
Advantages of Mediation
In some cases, litigation of disputes can’t be avoided. Generally, however, mediation can offer several advantages:
Mediation Is Less Expensive
Mediation is less formal than court, and evidence and other court rules don’t apply.
Mediation Is Less Stressful
Mediation session is more casual, avoiding the formality and stress of court. Generally the parties are kept separate from each other, avoiding the stress of facing the opposing party face-to-face.
Mediation Is Usually Faster
In many Colorado courts, it may be months before a trial is scheduled. A mediation session can be scheduled and concluded much sooner.
Mediation Is More Efficient
Mediation is usually completed in one day, whereas trials can take up to a week.
Parties Have More Control Over the Resolution In mediation, you decide whether to accept or reject the offer. This way, you know exactly how it will turn out. In trial, the jurors have control over the outcome.
When Mediation May Not Be Appropriate
Mediation is not a “one size fits all” process. Some instances in which it may not be useful include those in which:
- There is a need to establish a legal precedent, or the case involves complex procedural issues.
- A party with authority to settle is unavailable or is not willing to negotiate.
- The parties are unlikely to reach an agreement, and mediation would be a waste of time and money.
Court-Ordered Mediation In Colorado
Mediation is greatly favored over litigation in Colorado. Whether or not the parties agree on their own to do so, judges in some counties order the parties to participate in mediation. In addition to personal injury cases, mediation is sometimes also required in the following types of disputes:
Domestic Relations Cases
The parties to a divorce or custody dispute may be referred to mediation to reduce hostility and, hopefully, build a new relationship enabling the parties to cooperate on future issues such as parenting. Mediation can take place at the outset of a case or later if issues remain unresolved. However, if there is an allegation of domestic violence by a party, and any party objects to mediation, the court cannot force the parties to mediate.
Probate disputes may involve emotionally charged and long-standing family dynamics. The right mediator can help the parties work through these issues and also ensure that all interested individuals are involved in resolving the dispute.
Construction Defect Matters
Colorado law provides that the parties must mediate any conflict before litigating if, as most do, the construction contract calls for it. Whether or not it is successful, the mediation process must be completed before litigation can be filed. The mediator should have technical knowledge of construction and experience with complex construction cases.
Homeowners’ Association Disputes
Colorado law encourages, and many homeowner association documents provide for mediation (or, in some cases, arbitration) as a means of settling disputes among homeowners. As in domestic relations cases, a successful mediation can help the parties, who will generally continue to live in proximity to each other, resolve future differences without resort to litigation.
County and Small Claims Court Cases Mediation can be highly effective in cases filed in both county court and small claims court involving disputes such as evictions, disputes over security deposits, neighborhood issues, and smaller contract matters. The process may be especially helpful since parties often chose to represent themselves in these courts. Several Colorado judicial districts have mediators available on request in the courthouse. There is no cost to the parties.
Choose the Right Mediator
Generally, the choice of mediator is left up to the parties. Whether you are involved in a dispute with a company, a neighbor, or the other parent of your children, choosing an experienced and genuinely impartial mediator can go a long way toward achieving a successful result. An experienced personal injury attorney will have experience working with several mediators and can choose the right person for your unique case. Call the Law Office of Anna L. Burr, LLC for a free, no-obligation consultation.