Mediation is an opportunity to try and settle your case prior to trial.
A mediator is an impartial third party, usually a retired judge who's willing to spend a few hours to try and get the opposing parties to come to the table and resolve the dispute. In New York, when all parties agreed to mediate a case prior to trial, all parties chip in and pay for the mediator's time.
Depending upon the complexity of the case, you can hire a mediator for two or three hours, a morning, afternoon or maybe even an entire day.
The mediator conducts shuttle diplomacy and tries to find out where each side wants to wind up and what each side is willing to give in order to compromise on a settlement.
A settlement is a guaranteed payment. The injured victim would be guaranteed to get a certain amount of money prior to trial. The defense and their insurance company would be guaranteed to limit the payout.
This removes the uncertainty associated with the trial and the possibility of getting a very large verdict for the injured victim or a verdict for the defense.
Both sides recognize the inherent uncertainty proceeding forward to trial.
However, just because both sides have agreed to come and try to negotiate the case during a mediation does not mean that it will always be successful. Despite the best efforts by the mediator and the attorneys, one side may be unreasonable and demanding. In that instance, it is unlikely that the parties will achieve a successful result and they will be forced to proceed to trial, which may still be a viable option.
If both sides are able to agree and come to a decision that can settle the case prior to trial, it also eliminates the expenses associated with trying a case, which can be very considerable. In addition, trials can be very lengthy and last for weeks and weeks. Mediation on the other hand, lasts for few hours.