Early Neutral Evaluation is a type of mediation. Unlike normal mediation, in Early Neutral Evaluation the mediator offers the parties his or her opinion about what is likely to happen if the dispute goes to trial. Sometimes the mediator shares this evaluation early in the process, and settlement discussions begin after the parties get the mediator’s opinion. Other times, the mediator offers an opinion at the end of mediation, if the parties have not reached a settlement. This is intended to give the parties something to consider. The hope is that it will help convince one or both sides that their position is unreasonable, and could spur the parties to find a way to settle the case.
Discussions that occur in mediation are confidential and court rules of evidence say settlement discussions can’t be shared with the court. This gives people have a safe place to have an open and frank discussion about the case without having to worry that things they say or offers they make will come back to haunt them if the case doesn’t settle.
Mediators and arbitrators often bill by the hour. Some will quote a fixed price for a session. Hourly rates can range from $200 to over $500. The rate depends on the person and the nature of the case. Typically each side pays half of the cost. Though a half-day session may cost $1,000 – $2,000, it is often money very well spent when considering the alternative of not settling and proceeding with litigation.
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