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Title: Do I have to go to mediation?

Date: 30 May 2012

Question

After 3 years of legal battles following my filtering accident on a Suzuki SV650 we finally have a trial date for this July. However my solicitors are recommending we agree to the other side’s offer of a mediation meeting to try and settle my case before trial. I want my day (2 in fact!) in court and to have the guy who knocked me off found responsible but my solicitors say that I could be made to pay legal fees if I don’t agree to mediation. Is this correct?

Andrew Williams, Bristol

Answer

In recent years the courts have been keen to encourage parties to try and settle claims by way of alternative dispute resolution. This can take the form of formal mediation (with an independent mediator present to try to assist settlement between the parties) or a more informal joint settlement meeting arrangement where the parties and the legal representatives turn up to discuss their differences and hopefully reach a settlement satisfactory to all. The benefit of such meetings is that they remove the inherent risk of going to trial, are much cheaper than going to trial and they free up the courts for other actions unsuitable for mediation.

Legal representatives are required to confirm to the court that they have explained mediation options to their clients. The court can impose costs sanctions on parties if they unreasonably refuse to mediate. It would be a rare situation indeed for me to advise a client not to give such a meeting a try and I would follow the advice of your lawyers – if the talks break down then at least you attempted settlement and then the trial will go ahead in any event.

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