A little known fact is that in Arizona very few debt collection cases make it to trial. Most debt collection lawsuits either end up with a default judgment because the person being sued didn’t file an Answer with the court, or the cases settle – meaning that the defendant (this means you) agrees to pay some amount less than what the debt collector is seeking just to make the case go away.
Courts like settlement. There simply aren’t enough judges to handle every single case if they all went to trial. And with that in mind some of the Justice Courts in Arizona require that the parties participate in mediation.
What is Mediation?
Mediation is the process whereby the parties attempt to negotiate a settlement. In the Arizona justice court system this is done by having the parties appear at the court house on a scheduled date. The court assigns an independent mediator to oversee the process.
Usually the mediators are law students or other non-lawyers who have received some training on the process and how to encourage the parties to come to an agreement.
Many times the mediator will have an initial meeting with all of the parties and then separate them into different rooms. At this point the mediator will shuttle back and forth between the rooms to see if an agreement can be reached.
The Mediation Process is Confidential
Many people worry that by submitting an offer to settle that it will be used against them if the case proceeds to trial. You need not worry as all of the information discussed in the mediation process is confidential and cannot be used at trial. Further, the mediator cannot be called as a witness by either of the parties.
What if I don’t Want to Settle?
While in some courts it is mandatory that you attend mediation, there is no requirement that you reach a settlement. If the terms are not what you consider fair or if you simply don’t have the amount of money the debt collector is demanding then you can agree not to settle the case and and a trial date will be set.
The decision whether to settle your case or not is totally up to you. I always give my clients my best advice on whether a settlement offer is good – and if you can get a low settlement at mediation it is almost always better to accept it rather than dealing with the risks of trial.
But at the end of the day, it is up to you.