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The Florida Supreme Court recently amended the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure regarding how mediations are conducted. I am a lawyer who helps car accident victims in Florida for nearly 20 years and I believe that a proper mediation is by far the best way to resolve disputes for both the injured victim and the insurance industry.

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Meditations are a form of Alternative Dispute Resolution that allows parties to confidentially discuss resolving cases rather than battling issues out in front of a judge and jury. The new rules require the appearance of a party or the party’s representative at mediation with the actual authority to resolve a claim. This will eliminate having lawyers call insurance adjusters who have not participated in the process for additional authority.

The Florida Rules of Civil Procedure 1.720 are now amended to adopt the Supreme Court’s recommendations. Specifically, parties now have to physically appear at a mediation conference with the attorney of record. The insurance company must now send a representative who has the “full authority to settle” and is the “final decisions maker”. If the party is a public corporation the party needs to send a representative to the mediation who can act on behalf of the corporation and settle the claim.

Now, parties are required to file with the Court 10 days before the mediation a “Certification of Authority” indicating who will appear at the mediation conference identifying the person or persons with the authority to resolve the claim. Failure to appear at a duly noticed mediation will result in sanctions. The Court will have the ability to sanction a party by imposing attorneys fees, costs and mediation costs for failure to send a person who has actual authority to resolve the case. This represents a huge improvement of the mediation process and should make resolving claims much more efficient.

Now if only we could force parties to attend mediation prior to filing a law suit for personal injuries or medical malpractice in Florida I believe that fewer cases would be tried to a jury, eliminating the mounting pressure on our over-taxed system of justice.