Using Judicial Settlement Conference Can Be Successful In Virginia Personal Injury Cases

In the past few years Judicial Settlement Conferences have become a more frequent method used to attempt to resolve Virginia personal injury cases.  The service is paid for by the Court, providing a way to mediate a case that would not justify the cost of a paid mediator.  The Judicial Conference must be agreed by both parties. 

In a Virginia personal injury case, a car accident for example, usually there is an insurance company making a decision for the defendant.  While often insurance companies are not willing to mediate cases, if they will agree it can be a great tool to get a small to medium car accident case resolved.  

Here is how the process works:
•    The parties must agree on which retired judge to use.  The Virginia Supreme Court has a list of retired judge that are available for a Judicial Settlement Conference.

•    The parties ask the Court, the presiding judge, to enter an order setting the date, time and location of the Judicial Settlement Conference.

•    The parties have the opportunity to send the judge any information they would like to be reviewed before the settlement conference takes place.

•    The parties then meet for the conference in the same room.

•    The judge explains the process and has the parties sign a confidentiality agreement.

•    The plaintiff’s attorney gives a statement explaining the injured party’s position in the case.  If liability is an issue he will explain why the plaintiff was not at fault for the collisions and the injuries and damages.  If liability is not an issue then just the damages or injuries will be explained.

•    The defense attorney, the attorney hired by the insurance company to represent the defendant, will then present their position on liability and damages.

•    The two parties will separate and go into different rooms.

•    The judge will usually start will the injured party and have them make a demand, or state what amount they would accept to settle the case.

•    The judge will relay then demand to the insurance company and they get an offer from the insurance carrier. 

•    The judge is not simply a messenger but will point out the potential risks to each party.

•    The process will go back and forth until the parties reach a decision.

•    At any point, either party is free to leave the conference. 

While this settlement process can be done over the phone by the plaintiff’s attorney and the insurance company’s adjuster, the settlement conference can help expedite the process, eliminating phone calls between the client, their attorney, the insurance attorney, the insurance adjuster and back again.  The added advantage is the retired judge has experience trying personal injury cases and can provide added insight to both parties for their risk at trial.  The judge can also be helpful if one side is advocating a position that is unreasonable.

Judicial Settlement Conferences in Virginia have been quite successful in helping parties resolve personal injury cases.  They may not be right for all cases and they do not always settle a personal injury case, but they are a very good tool to use in the right situation.

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