We all know that mediation, when taken seriously and done meaningfully can save time, save money and avoid risks. It follows that early mediation can increase the cost and time savings. Self-insured companies that have taken the steps to implement a program of early mediation have seen improvements in various metrics tied to their costs and risk exposure. More and more self-insured companies are mediating early since it is, after all, their money from dollar one that is at stake. But the benefits are not one-sided. Claimants benefit as well, both psychologically and monetarily.
Sooner or later, the typical case is settled. Since "later" rarely happens without increases in economic, opportunity, and psychological costs, it rarely makes sense to wait for someone else to suggest mediating or wait until discovery is complete. If the case gets settled early, litigation costs that occur when in suit can not become an impediment to settlement. A company's reserves, employee costs, litigation costs, claims administration costs, future risk, and premiums for excess insurance are all positively impacted by early resolution. Claimants typically want to be dealt with fairly and the longer it takes to get to mediation, the harder it may be for them to think that anything said or done in mediation is truly tied to someone else's concern for their situation. Thus, by waiting, what it takes to be "fair" or "reasonable" often goes up. Delay does not benefit either side in most cases since it will drive up everyone's investment in the process of disagreeing, ties up more of a company's resources, and delays the day a claimant who likely has real concerns actually has them addressed in a practical way.
Most of the information you need to evaluate a matter can be obtained in a less costly manner than through discovery after suit is filed. An informal exchange of information, under the umbrella of a mediation process, can be a suitable substitute for formal discovery. Too much time in litigation is spent seeking information through a slow and costly process. And lets face it, discovery typically doesn't deliver risk avoidance or closure.
It may not be right for every case, but it is wise in most, especially when the prospective defendant is in the customer service business and good will can be gained. At worst, the parties start the inevitable and necessary dialog. For the above reasons, and perhaps many more, it makes sense to consider mediating early, preferably before suit is filed.