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Snyder: Held Hostage by a Torturous Claim?

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Do you feel like you and your clients are hostage to a claim that goes on and on?

Teddy Snyder

Teddy Snyder

Every treatment request triggers a new round of litigation. The injury happened decades ago, and the disability percentage still has not finalized. The parties are at each other’s throats.

You can use tips from professional hostage negotiators to free the prisoners of the claim.

Keep everyone calm 

By definition, kidnappers are making unreasonable demands. The negotiator’s job is to keep everyone calm to work through the process without anyone taking sudden destructive action. 

Your opponent is a jerk, and your client has a knee-jerk negative reaction to every proposed alternative. Claim litigation can be stressful. The lawyer needs to walk a line between assuring the client of zealous advocacy and being a voice of reason. Near-hysteria can be contagious. So is calm.

In mediation among contentious parties, the mediator can segregate them into separate areas, called caucuses, to block confrontation. The mediator channels messages between parties in a calm, reasoned way.

Active listening

Hostage negotiators are trained to pay attention to the kidnapper, show respect for the his statements, acknowledge receipt of the message, and even read between the lines to figure out the best way to proceed to resolution. You need a mediator who knows how to do these things and can help you do them, too.

Keep talking

Whether people are trying to defuse a hostage situation or settle an injury claim, as long as everyone is still talking, things will keep moving toward resolution. Prepare yourself and other participants coming with you to be patient. Bring snacks and something to do while the mediator is caucusing with other groups. Do not bring children. Confirm no one is carrying a weapon.

Continue to explore every path toward resolution. More often than you might imagine, an issue emerges that parties were previously unaware of.

At last

The most fraught situations can end in peace when participants control emotions and continue to communicate their needs. 

Attorney Teddy Snyder mediates workers' compensation cases throughout California. She can be contacted through WCMediator.com.

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