These are tough economic times. What’s the effect on mediation practices? I was at a recent educational program and on a break spoke with a plaintiff’s attorney about how to settle claims in mediation with the economy in its difficult state. While there is no clear or easy answer, I suggest the following approach.
If you want to get your case settled, you need to get everyone involved genuinely interested. From the plaintiff’s counsel perspective, you need to fully engage both defense counsel and insurance professional in the settlement process. The prime mover in such engagement is making a "reasonable" settlement proposal. This works best when done before mediation so that defense counsel and insurance professional have time to review and prepare for mediation, i.e., set reserves, get authority, etc.
With respect to plaintiff’s initial proposal, don’t make it so high that defense counsel and insurance professional have no belief in potential settlement. If the proposal is out of this world high, then they will not be engaged in the process and are not likely to do any additional work to obtain greater authority than their own previous evaluation. On the other hand, a demand that defense counsel and insurance professional consider "reasonable," can go a long way towards creating a more conducive settlement atmosphere. Of course, any demand must build in some negotiating room, just consider how much room you really need!
The same concept holds true for the defense side of things in terms of making counter offers. If you make proposals that the other side perceives as a decent step, then they are likely to also take a decent step. And once folks are moving, then an opportunity is created. With no movement or very small increments, a negotiation or mediation can get bogged down. People can become frustrated and lose interest. And with interest lost, comes a lost opportunity.
So, get folks engaged. Get them believing that a settlement can be reached and you have set up your mediation for opportunity.