By: Paralegal Sheena
When entering into litigation, the primary goal is reaching successful settlement and resolution on behalf of the client. It is the paralegal’s job to ensure that special care is taken and attention to detail is heightened when preparing a client’s file for mediation. The following short task list includes important items that a useful paralegal should keep in mind.
- Confidentiality, Cost and selection of a mediator: Sending a flexible written agreement to mediate which sets forth the procedures of the hearing and who is responsible for the costs will prevent issues down the line.
- Pending discovery and investigations: Review all discovery requests and the responses of any lay, expert and character witnesses to ensure all materials and evidence has been produced to opposing counsel (including exculpatory evidence) well in advance of mediation.
- Pending medical records and bills: Review the file to ensure that all certified and admissible medical records and bills from all post-incident treating physicians are on file. Make sure the billing itemization is current and accurate so the opposing party can properly value the claim.
- Performing legal research: Research any pending or potential motions for summary judgement that opposing counsel may use and determine the legal and factual weaknesses. Be ahead of the game!
- Pending motions: Review the file for any pending motions and whether or not that motion has the potential to prevent successful settlement negotiations until it has been ruled upon. These pleadings include discovery disputes, motions to bifurcate, summary judgments or other dispositive types of motions.
- Compile all liens and verify all litigation
expenses: Verify all amounts and confirm that contact information for any
adjusters for any liens asserted against the client. If the lien holder’s
consent is a required prior to settlement, they will need to be invited to
mediation. Review the file for following types of liens:
- Medicaid/Medicare liens;
- Health insurance/ERISA liens;
- Medical payment liens;
- Disability insurers; or
- Hospital liens.
Additionally, it is important to confirm and account for all case/litigation expenses. These expenses may include attorney fees, record retrieval fees, investigation costs, filing fees, expert fees, deposition expense, videotaping charges, filing fees, witness fees, exhibit preparation, coping costs, and other expenses which will come out of any settlement.
- Confirm the presence of indispensable parties: If there are other parties who may share responsibility for the harm being litigated, confirm whether they were joined as a party. It is important that all parties and financial decision makers be present during mediation.
- Determine all mediation participants, parties and speakers: The attorney will need to determine which plaintiffs, attorneys, defendants and/or insurance representatives will be attending mediation and which will be speaking. For example, an eloquent and smart client may be allowed to make a brief statement as a tactical strategy to show the adjuster how compelling the testimony could be at trial.
- Confirm all audio/video exhibits with the attorney: Determine the format desired by the attorney for all exhibits to be used during mediation. This includes deposition excerpts, imaging films, photos, diagrams, etc..
- Schedule a teleconference between the client and attorney: The attorney will prepare the client for mediation and explain the processes and procedures for mediation. A detailed mediation packet inclusive of all pertinent mediation information should be mailed to the client soon thereafter.
The attorney typically handles many of these tasks but the main purpose of a paralegal is to aid the attorney in every phase of litigation. A highly skilled and useful paralegal understands that all his/her work must be performed under the supervision of the handling attorney anyway; so, there is no harm in being ahead of the curve and providing the attorney with a jump-start to their research and preparation.
Remember, paralegals rule the legal nation!