Should I agree to mediation for my personal injury case?

This blog post by serious personal injury and wrongful death attorney Richard Armond addresses questions surrounding mediation as a means to resolving personal injury and wrongful death cases. Richard Armond of The Armond Firm, LLC, is based in Lawrenceville, Georgia, near the Gwinnett County Justice and Administration Center. He handles cases throughout metro Atlanta and the State of Georgia.

What is mediation?

Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution in which opposing parties agree to have a neutral party called a mediator listen to each party’s presentation of the case in attempt to reach an agreement to amicably resolve a case short of going to trial. Mediation, as opposed to arbitration, is non-binding. In other words, if either party in a mediation does not like the end result then they do not have to agree to the proposed resolution and can walk away still retaining the right to pursue claims or defenses in a lawsuit.

How does mediation work?

Mediation is less formal than proceedings in a court of law. Each side will agree to a particular Georgia registered mediator to hear the case between them and will schedule the mediation hearing for a particular date. Prior to that date, either side typically is allowed to present a summary and materials to the mediator in advance of the mediation to give the mediator a synopsis of the case and their position going into the hearing.

On the date of the mediation, each party will typically be assigned to their own room. The parties typically sign an agreement that the discussions which take place cannot be used against either party in any subsequent litigation. This is to encourage open talks in an attempt to settle the case. The parties will then get together briefly in a room so that each side can give an opening statement if they wish. Basically, this allows any party to state with everyone present what they believe the facts of the case are and what the damages are. Then, the parties retreat to their assigned rooms for private meetings with the mediator.

The mediator will often meet with the plaintiff and his or her attorney first to get the exact amount demanded and discuss the case from the plaintiff’s perspective. The mediator will then leave the room to meet with the defendant and his or her attorney. If the defendant has a counteroffer the mediator will then leave their room and present it to the plaintiff. The process can go back and forth a few times or many times. The goal of each side is typically to reach an appropriate resolution of the case.

Sometimes sides are able to resolve a case relatively quickly. More often, a mediation can go on for hours or even a full day. Sometimes it is clear that one side is being unreasonable and because of that the mediation ends quickly. Other times cases can be complex as strengths and weaknesses of cases, both in the facts and the law, are discussed with the mediator and negotiations continue.

If an agreement is reached the mediator will typically complete a brief settlement memorandum that each party signs regarding the terms of the agreement. If either side does not reach the result they wanted they can walk away to continue litigating the case in court. As stated earlier, the process is much less formal than court proceedings as the rules of evidence are not at issue, each side presents their case outside the presence of the other side, and things like presenting information in advance that would not be allowed in a court of law are permissible in mediations.

Is it a good idea to mediate a wrongful death or personal injury case?

That is a question for your attorney who knows the facts and law of your case inside and out. My experience is that mediation can be a very useful tool to get a case resolved appropriately without the risk of a trial. There is minimal downside to a mediation in that if either party does not like where the final settlement offer is at they may get up and leave without any of it effecting their case in court. Mediation in personal injury and wrongful death cases, however, is not free and the expenses to each side can be thousands of dollars. There is also strategy involved and personal opinions vary amongst attorneys as to how to present a case at a mediation. Some lawyers almost never present information in advance and others routinely waive opening statements. It is best to trust and listen to your lawyer during the mediation process.

If you or a loved one have been injured or killed in Georgia because of the bad act or negligence of another party, please contact Gwinnett County based personal injury and wrongful death lawyer Richard Armond at (678) 661-9585 for a free consultation. 

Attorney Richard Armond of The Armond Firm, LLC, handles serious personal injury and wrongful death cases throughout metro Atlanta and the State of Georgia. He is licensed to practice law by the State Bar of Georgia and is based in Lawrenceville, one mile down the road from the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center. Call him today for a free consultation at (678) 661-9585. The information above is for informational purposes only as of the date of publication and should not be relied upon as legal advice, nor does the reading of it form an attorney-client relationship. Always consult directly with an attorney for legal advice.

How to Settle a Personal Injury Claim for a Minor Child in Georgia

No parent ever wants to experience his or her child being seriously injured because of someone’s negligence. Should you have to pursue an insurance claim or a lawsuit on behalf of your child, Georgia has some special rules governing how personal injury cases involving minor victims (children under the age of 18) are settled.

When a minor child is injured and someone is at fault, a personal injury attorney will typically send the at-fault party and/or his insurance company a demand letter in an attempt to settle the claim. If a fair settlement is not reached through a demand letter and negotiations, or when circumstances such as time considerations dictate, a personal injury lawyer will file a lawsuit (see the prior post “Filing a Lawsuit on Behalf of a Minor Child in Georgia” for more info on who can file a lawsuit on behalf of a minor in Georgia). What happens in Georgia cases involving injured minors when a settlement is reached either before or after the filing of a lawsuit?

This blog post answers the question of what happens in the event a personal injury settlement is reached on behalf of a minor child in Georgia.

In a typical case when a settlement is agreed upon the insurance company and/or the defendant will send a release to the plaintiff. By signing the release the plaintiff agrees to settle the case in accordance with the financial payment terms and to release the defendant from further liability. When a minor is the plaintiff, however, the law does not always allow for such a simple process. The law differs when minors are involved based on the amount of the settlement.

It is important in reading below to understand that the law in Georgia defines “gross settlement” as “the present value of all amounts paid or to be paid in settlement of the claim, including cash, medical expenses, expenses of litigation, attorney's fees, and any amounts paid to purchase an annuity or other similar financial arrangement.” O.C.G.A. § 29-3-3 (a). When speaking of the value of settlements below I am speaking in terms of “gross settlement” as defined by Georgia law and which includes all of the items listed above.

When the gross settlement is more than $15,000.00:

All personal injury settlements on behalf of a minor in Georgia in which the gross settlement amount is more than $15,000.00 require court approval to finalize the agreement regardless of whether a lawsuit has been filed. O.C.G.A. §§ 29-3-3 (d) and (e). Typically, court approval will be petitioned for in probate court in cases in which no lawsuit has been filed, and, in cases in which a lawsuit has been filed, it must be done in the court where the lawsuit is pending. Id.

In many cases involving settlements on behalf of minors in which the amount is $15,000.00 or more, there must be a conservator in place before any court will approve the settlement.

  • When a conservator is required: When the gross settlement is for $15,000.00 or more and when subtracting out attorney's fees, expenses of litigation, and medical expenses which shall be paid from the settlement proceeds, the present value of amounts to be received by the minor after reaching the age of majority (18) is still $15,000.00 or more, then a conservator must be in place before any court will approve the settlement. O.C.G.A. § 29-3-3 (g). The guardian of the minor must file a petition in probate court to become conservator and then once appointed as conservator he or she asks the appropriate court (probate if no lawsuit was filed, the court where the lawsuit is pending if a lawsuit was filed) to approve the terms of the settlement.

  • When a conservator is not required: In cases in which the gross settlement is for $15,000.00 or more and when subtracting out attorney's fees, expenses of litigation, and medical expenses which shall be paid from the settlement proceeds, the present value of amounts to be received by the minor after reaching the age of majority (18) comes out to less than $15,000.00, then no conservator is required. O.C.G.A. § 29-3-3 (f). In this scenario the guardian may petition the appropriate court (probate if no lawsuit was filed, the court where the lawsuit is pending if a lawsuit was filed) to approve the terms of the settlement without first becoming a conservator.

When the gross settlement is $15,000.00 or less:

When a gross settlement has been reached for personal injuries to a minor and the amount is $15,000.00 or less, Georgia law allows the guardian of a minor to settle the claim withoutfirst becoming a conservator and without the approval of any court. O.C.G.A. § 29-3-3 (c).

Personal injury cases involving injured minors in Georgia can be complex and an attorney experienced in navigating through both the traditional litigation process as well as the probate court process is a necessity. Attorney Richard Armond is experienced in handling personal injury cases on behalf of minors in Georgia.

If you are the parent or guardian of a minor who was injured or killed as a result of someone’s negligence, please contact Gwinnett County based personal injury lawyer Richard Armond at (678) 661-9585 for a free consultation. 

Attorney Richard Armond of The Armond Firm, LLC, handles serious personal injury and wrongful death cases throughout metro Atlanta and the State of Georgia. He is licensed to practice law by the State Bar of Georgia and is based in Lawrenceville, one mile down the road from the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center. Call him today for a free consultation at (678) 661-9585. The information above is for informational purposes only as of the date of publication and should not be relied upon as legal advice, nor does the reading of it form an attorney-client relationship. Always consult directly with an attorney for legal advice.

The Importance of Medical Records in Proving Your Georgia Injury Claim

In order to recover financial compensation in a personal injury claim, the plaintiff, or injured party, must prove, among other elements, causation and damages. Typically, medical records are the most important source of proof of damages, and can be useful in proving causation.

Medical records serve as documentation that an injury arose from a particular event. This is why it is so important if you are injured in any type of accident, whether automobile, workplace, slip and fall, etc., to seek immediate medical treatment. The immediate need for care demonstrates to an insurance company or jury that the recent event caused your injury. Medical records and opinions from medical experts can also be used to show the event caused a new injury or exacerbated an old injury when the defendant is claiming you have a pre-existing injury.

Medical records are also used to calculate the amount of damages. This is the dollar amount your loss is worth. Medical records can help to put a hard dollar amount on the amount spent on your care to date. This will include your initial visit to the emergency room or physician, follow up treatments, rehabilitation, and any other medical care necessary. Your physician's prognosis can also be used to show future medical expenses when care for your injury may be ongoing for months or years. 

Medical records can also be helpful in showing non-economic damages such as pain and suffering, mental and emotional distress, loss of quality of life, etc. Though the medical records will not put an exact dollar figure on these losses, they are part of a total claim and the medical records can speak to what a victim has suffered. 

If you or a loved one have been injured in an accident and need medical attention, go to the emergency room or your physician immediately. Your health should be priority number one. Follow the treatment recommendations of your medical providers. If you would like to speak with an attorney about your injury please contact Richard Armond at (678) 661-9585 for a free consultation today.

Attorney Richard Armond of The Armond Firm, LLC, handles serious personal injury and wrongful death cases throughout metro Atlanta and the State of Georgia. He is licensed to practice law by the State Bar of Georgia and is based in Lawrenceville, one mile down the road from the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center. Call him today for a free consultation at (678) 661-9585.The information above is for informational purposes only as of the date of publication and should not be relied upon as legal advice, nor does the reading of it form an attorney-client relationship. Always consult directly with an attorney for legal advice.