Mediation Program for Claims up to $10,000
If you are involved in a small claims action for claims up to $10,000 at certain courthouses in B.C., you may be able to resolve your disagreement by participating in a mediation.
- What is the Court Mediation Program?
- What is mediation?
- What can mediation do for me?
- How does my case get to mediation?
- Who attends the mediation?
- Who is the mediator?
- What happens at the mediation?
- How will I know where and when the mediation is?
- What if one of the parties does not attend the mediation?
- What should I bring to the mediation?
- How do I prepare for the mediation?
- What happens if we reach an agreement through mediation?
- What if mediation does not solve the problem?
- Will the judge be told what happened at the mediation?
- If I don't settle, doesn't mediation just add more time to my court case?
- Can I mediate after a trial preparation settlement conference?
- Who can I talk to if I have questions about mediation?
The Court Mediation Program provides mediation services for some small claims disputes. The only cost to you is when you require the services of an interpreter or a signer. This program receives funding from the Ministry of Justice. It is administered by a non-profit society.
To find out more, you can contact the Court Mediation Program in Vancouver at 604 684-1300 (outside the Lower Mainland, call toll-free 1 877 656-1300), email firstname.lastname@example.org or go online to www.mediatebc.com/Mediation-Services/Court-Mediation-Program---Small-Claims.aspx.
Mediation gives people an opportunity to resolve their disputes with the help of a mediator.
Like judges, mediators are neutral and unbiased. Unlike judges, mediators do not decide cases and do not give opinions about the problem. The purpose of mediation is not to determine who wins and who loses, but to find solutions that meet the needs of people involved. The mediator's job is to help people with a disagreement to develop a solution that satisfies them both.
Mediation can help resolve the problem that has brought you to small claims court. The best resolution to any problem is usually one worked out by the people involved. Through mediation, people usually arrive at a final resolution more quickly and conveniently than by going to trial and asking a judge to decide their case.
Mediation can be especially useful in situations where the people in conflict have a relationship with each other that will continue, such as neighbours or business colleagues. Mediation is an informal process, although the mediator does structure the discussion. Many people find it a comfortable and productive procedure.
Many people also get personal satisfaction from using the mediation process. They prefer to take an active part in solving their own problem, rather than waiting for a judge to impose a solution.
There are two ways a case may go to mediation:
In courts that are participating in this program, some kinds of cases are referred automatically to mediation. For example, in some courts all construction cases are sent to mediation. If your case falls into this category, the Court Mediation Program will send you a notice telling you when and where the mediation is going to be held. If you receive such a notice, you must attend one meeting involving a mediator and all the parties.
One party can choose to mediate. If you would like to mediate your case, you can fill in a form called a notice to mediate. If your claim is for personal injuries, you also need to fill out a form called certificate of readiness. You can get these forms at a court registry or online. Once you give the form(s) to the court registry, the Court Mediation Program will schedule a mediation and the other party must attend. If the other party files a notice to mediate with the registry, you will be required to attend one mediation session.
Note: Certain cases are exempt from the mediation process. For a complete list of exemptions, please refer to Schedule E of the Small Claims Rules.
The parties involved in the case attend the mediation. The parties are the claimants, defendants and any third parties. Generally, witnesses do not attend. If a corporation is a claimant or defendant, someone who knows the facts of the case and who can make decisions for the corporation must attend.
If you have a lawyer representing you, your lawyer may attend the mediation with you. Whether or not you choose to have your lawyer at the mediation, you should talk to him or her about the mediation when you are preparing for the mediation.
Mediators are impartial - they do not take sides. The program mediators have been trained to help you and the other party develop a resolution to your dispute. Mediators sometimes work in teams. In this program, you may have one, two or three mediators helping you.
You, the mediator(s), and any other participants sit around a table in the mediation room. A mediation usually takes about two hours.
The mediator reviews the agreement to mediate, which answers many of the questions you may have about the mediation process. The mediator can answer any other questions you may have.
Together you decide what issues need to be resolved. Each party has a chance to tell their story and to explain what is important to them.
You are encouraged to ask questions any time during the mediation to be sure that you understand what is being said.
Mediators sometimes meet separately with the parties. The mediator will explain this process at the beginning of the mediation.
The mediator will help you and the person(s) you have the disagreement with to consider possible solutions.
You are not required to reach a final agreement at mediation. But, if you do find a way to resolve your case, you can enter into a written agreement that the court will enforce.
The Court Mediation Program will send you a notice of mediation session setting out where and when your mediation will be.
Mediations in this program are usually held in special rooms in the courthouse. They are held in private - unlike trials, which take place in courtrooms that are open to the public.
If the claimant does not attend the mediation the case may be dismissed and if the defendant does not attend the mediation the claimant may ask for a default judgment.
You should bring any documents - statements, invoices, or photographs, for example - that will help the other person to understand your concerns or that you would use to support your claim. Bring the originals and bring a copy of each that you can give to the other person.
Besides getting your documents ready, there are some questions you can ask yourself to help you prepare for mediation. For your own use, you might want to try writing down the answers to these questions:
- What is the best result I can hope for?
- What is the worst result that could happen?
- What is really important to me in this dispute?
- What are the other person's main concerns?
- How can I answer those concerns?
If you and the other party or parties reach an agreement on how to resolve your dispute, the mediator will help to put the agreement in writing. This reduces the possibility of misunderstandings about the agreement. The agreement will also set out what will happen if one party does not abide by it.
If the mediation does not solve the problem, you will receive a notice, and go on to the next step in the court process - the trial preparation settlement conference. This conference will help you to prepare your case for trial.
Sometimes only some issues are resolved at mediation. When this happens, the issues that are resolved are put into an agreement and the rest of the case goes on to the trial preparation settlement conference with the judge.
The judge is told only what issues were settled through mediation, but not about anything that happened or what was said.
Even if mediation does not resolve your case, it's unlikely that it will be a wasted effort. If you do have a trial, it may be shorter and easier than if you hadn't tried mediation first. Your trial preparation settlement conference to prepare for trial is shorter, and in most cases, it takes place on about the same date it would have if you had not gone to mediation. See small claims guide #5: Getting Ready for Court.
If you did not have mediation before the trial preparation settlement conference, you can still choose mediation later. Sometimes all issues are not settled at the trial preparation settlement conference. You still have an opportunity to make a request to have your case referred to mediation at your trial preparation settlement conference with the consent of the parties.
The Court Mediation Program staff can answer specific questions you may have about the mediation process.
You can contact the program at:
- Tel: 604 684-1300
(Outside the Lower Mainland, call toll-free 1 877 656-1300); or
- MediateBC website