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Is Mediation Legally Binding?

Seth Harris

Last modified on November 18, 2023

Is Mediation Legally Binding

It’s important to understand the entire mediation process when you enter into mediation for your personal injury case. Many of our clients ask us, “Is mediation legally binding?” That depends on whether the parties involved signed a settlement agreement due to the mediation.

Having an attorney with you is best if you’re participating in a mediation session for your personal injury case. Our NYC personal injury lawyers can help you focus on your goals in mediation and assist in negotiating a fair settlement.

When Does Mediation Become Binding?

Mediation is an alternative dispute resolution method that consists of guided negotiations overseen by a trained mediator. The role of the mediator is to help the parties reach a mutually agreeable settlement without going to court.

Mediation is less formal than civil court, and the rules of evidence are looser. You may be able to talk more openly about your feelings and concerns. All parties sign a confidentiality agreement before the start of the session. A mediator can help the negotiation remain focused on the issues at hand. They will prevent it from getting out of control if one or both parties get emotional or start arguing about blame.

If a judge orders you and the other party to mediation, you must participate or risk violating a court order. However, many parties voluntarily agree to mediation. Because mediation is not mandatory in personal injury cases in New York. You and the defendant can attempt to settle your claim through mediation before the trial.

Arbitration, another alternative dispute resolution process, results in binding decisions made by the arbitrator. In mediation, on the other hand, the mediator issues no judgments or decisions. Their goal is to facilitate settlement discussions. Mediation itself is not binding. But if a settlement agreement is reached and the parties sign a document outlining the agreement, that agreement is usually binding.

What Is the Difference Between Mediation and a Settlement?

Settlement negotiations don’t have to go through mediation. When mediation is not involved, the parties in a case – or, more often, their lawyers – may go back and forth to achieve a compromise. If your lawyer gets a settlement agreement in writing, it becomes legally binding once a judge approves and signs it, thus concluding your case.

If you reach a mediated settlement agreement, and it’s in writing, that document is likely legally binding if it meets the legal requirements for a contract. A mediated settlement agreement is presented to a judge for approval. The document is binding once the judge signs it, and your case is closed.

If the other party does not comply with the signed, judge-approved agreement, you can pursue a breach of contract action in court.

Possible Outcomes of Mediation

Mediation can have multiple outcomes. These range from getting everything you want to the parties unable to agree. When that happens, the case must go to trial.

Mediation allows you to find creative solutions to your dispute. A compromise could involve the defense accepting responsibility for what happened but offering a lower settlement amount.

Mediation is confidential. That means that both parties agree whatever is said can’t be used at trial. This freedom to speak and the more relaxed nature of mediation can make the dispute resolution process less contentious.

Confidentiality in mediation can also extend to the agreement itself. One party may stipulate non-disclosure of the case, from how your injuries were caused to the settlement amount. This is common in medical malpractice cases where a healthcare facility doesn’t want a damaged reputation. It’s also common in defective products or dangerous drug cases when the defendant doesn’t want news of consumer injury getting out. In a trial, everything becomes public record, from a company’s negligence to how much they were sued for and ordered to pay.

Do I Have to Make an Agreement in Mediation?

Even if you’re court-ordered to participate in mediation, that doesn’t mean you must walk out with a mediated settlement agreement. Mediation gives you control over the outcome of the dispute. But you aren’t required to reach an agreement.

In some cases, the facts could be unclear, even after both sides go through discovery and depose witnesses. You may not have a lot of indisputable facts to support your claim. So the other side may not feel compelled to admit they were negligent and settle.

Perhaps your lawyer believes the other party should pay punitive damages only available in a court proceeding. Punitive damages are assessed in cases where the defendant’s actions were egregiously negligent. They serve to punish the defendant and set an example to other similar parties who may be tempted to engage in similar actions. This could, for example, include cases where a drug manufacturer released a medication that hadn’t been fully tested or was known to have dangerous side effects.

You may be able to recover more if you take your case to trial than you would if you negotiated a settlement in mediation. It’s not guaranteed, though. This is also a reason why it’s important to have an experienced NYC personal injury lawyer advising you of the strength of your case and possible outcomes if you go to trial.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Mediation?

Is Mediation Legally Binding

You are not required to have a lawyer to represent you in mediation. However, many people feel more comfortable with their legal advocate beside them. Negotiations in mediation may become emotional. This is especially true if you’re still reeling from the pain of your injuries or the trauma of the accident. You may be able to ask your lawyer to speak for you if you become overwhelmed.

Some people may feel uncomfortable negotiating. Our personal injury lawyers are trained negotiators. We have experience with even the most complex personal injury cases. Your attorney may be able to negotiate better terms for the settlement than you could alone.

Contact Our New York City Personal Injury Lawyers About Your Case Today

Have you been injured by a negligent party and wish to seek compensation? Have you been asked to attend mediation with the defendant in your personal injury claim? We can help you pursue the best possible outcome for your case and prepare you for the mediation session. Contact Harris Keenan & Goldfarb at 1-800-PAIN-LAW for a free consultation today.

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Over $500 Million in Verdicts and Settlements

Our track record showcases over $500 million won for our clients. Each victory underlines our commitment to justice and client care. Explore our impact, case by case.



A Brooklyn jury awarded Mr. Vargas $17.5 million for the City of New York’s violation of his civil rights for failing to provide him medical care while in custody. The jury found that the police officers involved failed to provide the necessary medical treatment and awarded $17.5 million to Mr. Vargas.



Harris Keenan & Goldfarb partners Seth Harris and Sheri Holland obtained a $4,730,398.00 jury verdict on behalf of our client who tripped and fell at a private apartment building in the Bronx, suffering a broken foot that developed a very painful, permanent neurological condition called Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (“RSD”).



A Bronx jury awarded John Doe over $12 million for an accident on a construction site. John Doe was working when a piece of scaffold weighing 35 pounds fell, striking John Doe in the lower back. John Doe suffered a herniated disc requiring surgical removal of a portion of the disc and permanent nerve damage.



A Bronx jury awarded $10.5 million to the mother of Malcolm Ferguson, who was wrongfully shot and killed by the New York City Police Department. The police officer, Louis Rivera, also a defendant in the case, was found to have used excessive force in violation of Malcolm Ferguson’s civil rights as protected under the United States Constitution.



A Bronx jury awarded plaintiff William Cardoza $4 million for injuries caused by the use of excessive force during an arrest. During the arrest, Mr. Cardoza was pepper-sprayed and repeatedly hit with a police nightstick. As a result, Mr. Cardoza sustained injuries to his hand and finger.



The firm’s client, a 33-year-old teacher’s assistant, was scalded by an espresso machine that exploded while the defendant’s employee was demonstrating how the machine worked. The client was a customer at the defendant’s coffee shop on the date of the accident and suffered first-degree burns to her right (dominant) hand.



The firm represented the mother- decedent and her infant son. During the decedent’s admission to the defendant hospital, the defendant dispensed anesthesia during an epidural to the decedent in an inadequate manner. The mother-decedent suffered personal injuries and wrongful death due to the defendant’s failure to properly administer epidural anesthesia.



Mr.Brennan fell from approximately 25 feet while working on a construction project. He suffered a shattered bone in his right leg requiring surgery and hardware placement. Mr. Brennan also suffered two fractures in his facial bones, and a dislocated finger requiring surgical repair.



The firm’s client was a child with cerebral palsy who was injured as a result of medical malpractice. The firm’s clients claimed improper management of pregnancy, labor, and delivery resulting in brain damage, and received a Brooklyn personal injury settlement.



The firm’s client, a 63-year-old mentally incompetent man, slipped and fell in his own urine while attempting to walk to the bathroom at the defendant’s senior citizen home. The client fractured his hip and as a result is confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life. The client claimed that the staff of the home failed to properly care for him, and the jury awarded $1,677,835.



The firm’s client, a 47-year-old male, slipped and fell on a public sidewalk in the Bronx. It had snowed four to five days prior to the date of the accident, and the sidewalk was covered with ice. The client suffered a lumbar fracture and a herniated disc. The jury found the city liable and awarded the client a $2,995,000 personal injury settlement in the Bronx.



A Bronx jury awarded plaintiff Luis Molina $2.61 million for injuries sustained when he fell down a subway station stairway. Mr. Molina was caused to slip and fall as a result of a plastic bag that had blown onto the steps from a street opening. As a result of the fall, Mr. Molina suffered a herniated disc and a tear of his right shoulder’s rotator cuff. The jury found that the NYC Transit Authority was liable for the accident.



A Bronx jury awarded Ms. Colon $2.25 million for a trip and fall accident. Ms. Colon was caused to fall when she moved to the right to allow another pedestrian to pass, and her foot rolled to the outside due to the sidewalk being unlevel with the adjoining grass. The jury found the defendant liable and awarded Ms. Colon $2,253,714.00 for her pain and suffering.



A Brooklyn jury awarded Arvella Floyd $1.9 million for a fractured wrist which required multiple surgeries, including an open-reduction internal fixation and a carpal tunnel release. Ms. Floyd was injured when the hot water knob of the shower fell off after numerous complaints to the superintendent, and scalding water spewed toward her, causing her to
fall and break her wrist.



A Bronx jury awarded plaintiff Juanita Young $1,350,000 for injuries caused by the use of excessive force during an arrest. During the arrest, Ms. Young, who is legally blind, was handcuffed from behind, with her children watching, and taken to the top of the stairs to exit the building. The officer proceeded to push her down the stairs multiple times.

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00:47 22 Jun 24
I contacted Burns and Harris, this company which is renamed now, about two years ago about my injury. I even had an in person meeting with Stephen LaRocca.I had to chase him for a year just to sign something, in the end I just gave up. Pretty appalling company and even worse than people have written. I can only imagine the people who haven’t taken the time to write your review. Don’t bother with them.
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My experience with Harris Keenan and Goldfarb was wonderful. My legal representative, Steven LaRocca with Samantha Walton always made me feel well defended and cared for, in a way that went beyond professional representation and into the realm of caring about me on a personal level. Steven, Samantha and Seth Harris got me a great outcome and I can’t thank them enough!
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Horrible people. I lost complete confidence in this firm. Attorneys dragged their feet for 4 years and my mom died before a settlement could be reached. I advised them several times that my mom was sick to put fire under their feet but the effort was to no avail.
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I am completely satisfied, and recommend Harris Keenan & Goldfarb as Attorneys to represent anyone. Their care for me physically, and overall helped me stay strong in spite of my injuries. Always available to answer questions, and inform.They got me Justice, and achieved a substantial outcome for my case.I am very impressed, and thankful for their outstanding performance on my behalf.I am very pleased, and significantly satisfied with their representation.‐-Sherylon Wilkins
Robert LennonRobert Lennon
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Patient and diligence is how I describe the effort of HKG the work was thorough, honest and fair, I have no complaints. Special thanks to attorney Blake and his paralegal Thierry.
Gene Matos (fanboye)Gene Matos (fanboye)
18:48 15 Jan 24
I first crossed paths with Seth Harris when serving jury duty many years ago. He was so professional and personable, that when my mom was seeking legal counsel for medical malpractice, I told her she had to reach out to his firm. We had meetings with a few different firms, but Harris Keenan & Goldfarb was the only firm that did not try to get us to sign paperwork before even meeting. They took the time to listen and understand our situation before we signed anything, and they were transparent and responsive the whole time. I would like to give special thanks to Samantha Walton, Marla Stein, Val Wallace and Seth Harris for helping my mom through this tough time. They were honest and upfront, and even though Seth Harris wasn't personally on the case, he took the time to meet with us and give us his thoughts on it.
Solange IsaacSolange Isaac
17:52 08 Jan 24
I am pleased with the services provided by Ms Sheri on my case. The team at Harris, Keenan, & Goldfarb were very nice and explained everything to me. Everything that I had questions on they answered without frustration and were prompt and knowledgeable.6 years ago I had a slip and fall accident at my employers place of business. I reached out to them because I knew that I was being wrongfully treated. They took care of the case, restored my self confidence, and brought so much peace to my problem riddled life.I can recommend without a shadow of a doubt the services of Harris, Keenan & Goldfarb to anyone who is in need of someone who will have your back!
Brittany DempseyBrittany Dempsey
16:02 08 Jan 24
My mother had an accident with her ankle back in 2019. I immediately contacted Harris, Keenan & Goldfarb on the day of the accident. They were extremely prompt and helpful. They attended to my mother's case beautifully and she's been recovering well. I'd like to thank you for being so diligent, kind and above all professional. I'd recommend this law firm to anyone who are injured and in need of legal assistance. My mother, Andrea, and I thank you for everything.
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