Lawsuits and disagreements do not necessarily have to be resolved in the courtroom. Arbitration and mediation are two examples of what is known as alternative dispute resolution. Together, these methods offer parties a number of significant benefits over traditional litigation. If you have a pending or ongoing lawsuit in state or federal court, or one is being threatened, arbitration or mediation may prove far more advantageous than taking your matter in front of a judge or jury. The team at Patrick, Harper & Dixon is ready to assist.
What Is Arbitration?
Arbitration is an out-of-court method for resolving disputes between parties. It is similar to a trial, but it is less formal and occurs outside the courtroom. The right to arbitration is created by contract and is often (but not always) binding. If the arbitration is binding, then the decision of the arbitrator (the third-party neutral who decides the outcome of the dispute) will be final, barring extraordinary circumstances such as fraud.
If the arbitration is non-binding, then the unsatisfied party can generally still take the matter to court. Parties often use non-binding arbitration to test the strengths and weaknesses of their respective positions. It can also be used to encourage settlement between the parties in lieu of further litigation. Parties should be aware, however, that some arbitration clauses allow non-binding arbitration decisions to become binding if, for instance, the parties agree to it or the unsatisfied party waits too long to file a lawsuit.
Advantages Of Arbitration in Hickory
Compared to litigation, arbitration may offer these advantages, among others:
- Saves time. It is usually quicker to bring a dispute in front of an arbitrator versus taking it to court. Court dockets are overwhelmed with cases and there are litigation rules that require parties to be granted a certain amount of time (for example, to answer pleadings). Additionally, most arbitration decisions cannot be appealed, which eliminates the possibility of further delays.
- Less expensive. Because of the shorter time involved with arbitration, it tends to cost less money. Trials are more drawn-out and complex cases may involve extensive discovery. This formal process for exchanging and obtaining evidence is usually absent or limited in arbitration.
- Subject-matter expertise. Arbitrators usually specialize in certain practice areas such as construction litigation, contracts, and personal injury. This gives them more subject-matter expertise than many trial court judges have. Such expertise ensures the arbitrator will understand the complexity of the issues involved and render a sound decision.
- Less formal. Courts are governed by rules of civil procedure and evidence. While arbitration does have rules, the process is typically much less formal. In fact, many arbitration clauses allow parties the flexibility to control such matters as the exchange of documents and how the arbitration hearing will be conducted.
What Is Mediation?
Whereas arbitration involves a third-party neutral who will actually decide the dispute for the parties, mediation is more like a guided conversation between the two sides. Mediators do not decide cases but instead facilitate settlement discussions so the parties can arrive at their own outcome. Some cases must be sent to mediation before a judge will hear them. But civil litigants generally have the right to mediate any matter they want, as often as they want.
During mediation, the third-party neutral (known as the mediator) will listen to both sides describe their positions and offer evidence for the mediator to consider. This may be done in a group setting with all parties present, but in many cases, the mediator will meet privately with both sides behind closed doors. The mediator will then suggest ways to settle the dispute and help the parties understand the strengths and weaknesses of their respective positions.
If the dispute can be settled, the attorneys for both sides will reduce the agreement to writing. Or, the mediator may draft what’s called a “memorandum of agreement” which states the agreed-upon terms. If the matter doesn’t settle in mediation, the issue can proceed to court. Settlement discussions are generally not permitted in court, a rule which allows parties the freedom to candidly discuss issues in hopes of reaching a settlement. Also, the mediator cannot testify for or against you if the matter goes to trial.
Advantages Of Mediation in Hickory
The advantages of mediation are largely similar to those of arbitration. For example, it is less formal, can save considerable time and money, and mediators are often highly experienced with the subject matter of the dispute.
It also offers the following additional benefits:
- Control over the outcome. Instead of having the dispute decided by a judge or jury who may or may not fully understand the issues involved, mediation allows parties to settle the matter on their own terms. This allows them the freedom to develop creative solutions that judges and juries often do not or cannot come up with.
- Less stressful. Mediation usually takes place in the much more relaxed setting of a lawyer’s office. Because mediation discussions and offers to settle are generally inadmissible in court, parties enjoy the freedom to openly discuss the issues and offer settlement proposals. Finally, witnesses don’t testify in mediation the way they do in court. All these reduce stress for the parties.
- Clarifying issues for trial. Sometimes mediation is useful to gain a better understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of both sides. It can also clarify the issues involved and help parties prepare for court in the event mediation ultimately fails.
- Promoting future discussions. Even if one mediation session doesn’t settle the dispute, it often paves the way for future discussions. This not only makes it more likely that the parties will settle but can preserve important business or personal relationships that might be damaged by protracted litigation.
Contact Our Hickory Arbitration And Mediation Attorney
Our attorneys can serve as arbitrators or mediators in any state or federal dispute, or represent you should your matter be sent to arbitration or mediation. We have experience in a number of legal practice areas such as business law, real property, construction, personal injury, and estate planning. To learn more about Patrick, Harper & Dixon’s arbitration and mediation services, schedule your confidential consultation today.