What’s the Difference Between Mediation and Arbitration in Personal Injury Lawsuits?
Taking an injury lawsuit to trial is time consuming and costly. Your lawyer charges a fee for services, but you must also pay court fees, discovery fees, and costs associated with travel and time off work. Trials can take a long time, and even if the judge rules in your favor you may still have to fight to collect on the judgement.
Fortunately, there are alternatives that may help you expedite your personal injury claim. Arbitration and mediation can also be used to settle disputes. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages.
How Mediation Works
Mediation is an effective but much less formal process. It is less stressful by design, and it has a strong record of successfully solving disputes without the need for a costly trial. Essentially a mediator is a third neutral participant that attempts to help two disputing parties come to an agreement that satisfies them both.
The process is simple:
- A mediator begins the discussion with an opening statement that sets the terms of the discussion.
- Each party is given a chance to make their own opening statements.
- A joint discussion takes place.
- The mediator may meet in private with each individual party.
- A second attempt at negotiation is attempted.
- The meeting is concluded and agreements are recorded.
In simple cases where neighbors are in dispute, mediation can be a brief meeting that takes place in an afternoon. For more difficult cases involving civil disputes between businesses, divorce, or wrongful injury claims, the process is more complex. Mediation can require several sessions and last months.
A mediator is not a judge and does not have the power to make decisions. While most mediators are often attorneys, they do not offer legal advice or side with either party. A mediator’s job is to facilitate a discussion and help the two parties agree.
Mediation works well in situations where the two parties would like to avoid the cost of litigation. It is common for an agreement to be signed at mediation. These contracts become binding, but must be entered into willingly.
Attorneys often do not participate with their clients during mediation unless the case is complex. For difficult situations, an attorney can be present to make suggestions and help create a plan to resolve the case. If you are uncertain, any agreements you arrive at should be reviewed by your lawyer before you sign them.
How Arbitration Works
Like mediation, arbitration is another alternative to a trial. It is still not as formal as going to court, and an arbitrator is a neutral third party that participates. Unlike mediation, the arbitrator has the power to make decisions, and that decision is often binding.
Arbitration is common in civil disputes. This is especially true when a contract of some kind has been broken. An arbitration agreement in a contract will require you to participate in arbitration instead of suing in court.
The typical arbitration process includes:
- An arbitrator or panel of arbitrators is selected.
- A time and place for arbitration is decided upon.
- During arbitration, sides take turns to make arguments, present evidence, and examine witnesses.
- The arbitrator decides in favor of one or the other party.
Except in cases of fraud or misconduct on the part of the arbitrator, there is little that can be done to change the decision. The parties are required to abide by it.
Arbitrators must be paid individually. Some of their fees can be as high as $4000. In addition to that, you must still pay the regular costs associated with your legal case. Still, arbitration is much faster than litigation. It is not uncommon for court cases to drag on for several years. Arbitration resolves disputes quickly with provides results that you can use.
It is important to work with a lawyer through this process and to carefully consider the pros and cons of arbitration. One of the main drawbacks of using this approach is that it is easy to tilt the decision. Arbitrators are not required to follow the law like a judge is. Arbitrators make a decision based on what they personally feel is fair. The requirements for submitting evidence is also not as strict.
So Which is Better For Your Personal Injury Claim?
That all depends on your circumstances. Mediation is going to be the fastest and easiest way to settle a claim. If the facts are obvious and the two parties are reasonable, mediation can expedite the process to its logical conclusion.
In situations where facts are disputed or one party is unwilling to cooperate, arbitration is a more suitable method. Regardless, an attorney is essential to get the best possible outcome and represent your case.
Get Started Resolving a Conflict
In some instances, mediation is mandatory. This is true for many family law court systems. In some states, mediation is required prior to proceeding with any civil case. Arbitration is most often triggered by a clause in a contract. Some contracts have elaborate descriptions that detail how and when arbitration will take place.
Regardless, you can always voluntarily attempt to settle a dispute with either method. As the plaintiff in your personal injury, your attorney can request one of these alternative methods prior to a trial. Make sure you discuss all options with your lawyer before agreeing to a specific method.