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In our personal injury cases, at some point in the process one of the parties usually invites the other to a mediation, where a professional neutral (the mediator) tries to get the parties to agree on a settlement to avoid the risks of trial and resolve the case. While there are no fixed rules for mediations, and mediators might get creative on their methods, mediations usually follow a somewhat similar structure.

The typical structure is this: the parties show up at an office, possibly exchange some brief pleasantries with the other side, then retire to separate conference rooms or offices, never to speak to each other directly again (at least that day). The mediator travels between rooms, pacing the halls delivering messages, offers and counter-offers, and warnings of limits about to be reached. A skilled mediator will work the rooms to a point where each side understands its risks and possibilities in the case, and broker a deal.

Mediation isn’t right for every case, but it’s often a key juncture and a worthwhile exercise.  So how are we to do this these days, when we aren’t able/supposed to be be in the same room with non-household members? We do Zoom (or fill in your other favorite video conferencing platform).

As we’ve written previously, during the COVID-19 outbreak Schauermann Thayer attorneys continue to serve clients and push cases forward, often via video conference. The secrecy and privacy needed for each side to confer privately among themselves and with the mediator is available at least on Zoom (the platform I’ve been using, although I’m sure it’s available on others as well) via breakout rooms- virtual, sequestered “rooms” that contain only one party and their attorneys. The mediator can move between rooms with the same ease as she can walking the halls of a physical office, and get the job done nearly as effectively.

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About the Author

Scott A. Staples

Scott Staples came on board in 2006 as a clerk during law school, and joined the firm as an associate attorney in 2007. He was made a shareholder in the firm in 2010. Scott graduated, cum laude, from Washington State University Vancouver with a BA in English, and obtained his Juris Doctorate from Willamette University College of Law, with cum laude honors there as well. He has successfully represented clients in a variety of different types of injury cases, including auto collisions, premises liability, animal attacks, watercraft accidents, and construction site injuries. He has appeared, and won, before the Washington State Supreme Court (Weismann v. Safeco, 2012).

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