“I’ll see you in court.”
These aren’t words anyone wants to hear, but we live in a litigious world. If you own a home or a business or hold public office, there’s a chance that some decision you make might some day wind up before a judge.
Fortunately, a growing number of people are choosing to forego having matters decided in court in favor of what’s known as alternative dispute resolution. Bucks County plaintiffs and defendants alike can benefit from this process. Here’s how it works.
The three most common types of alternative dispute resolution – or ADR – are mediation, arbitration and settlement conferences.
Mediation is led by an impartial party called – fittingly enough – the mediator. Their job is to help the parties communicate and try to reach a resolution on their own.
It’s a good choice for emotional disputes, especially ones involving family members, neighbors or business partners who want to preserve their relationship when the case concludes.
But mediation may not be a good choice in situations where one party is unwilling to compromise, or where one has a substantial amount of power over the other.
Arbitration is a form of alternative dispute resolution in which a neutral party known as an arbitrator hears evidence and arguments from each side and then decides the outcome. It’s less formal than a trial, with more relaxed rules of evidence.
Arbitration can be binding – which means participants essentially have no right to appeal – and non-binding, which means participants can request a trial.
This form of ADR is good for parties who want to avoid the expense and time of a trial, and for complex disputes where the parties want a decision maker with experience on the matter.
But when you want to preserve some control over how the dispute is resolved, arbitration may not be appropriate, particularly binding arbitration.
These can be either voluntary, or mandatory – often when the case is set for trial – with the parties and their lawyers meeting with a judge or a settlement officer.
The judge won’t make a decision but can help the parties evaluate the case and negotiate a settlement. Settlement conferences are appropriate whenever a settlement is an option.
What are the benefits of ADR?
The benefits of using alternative dispute resolution include:
1. You’ll save time
ADR lets you settle a case within months or even a few weeks, while taking a case to trial might take more than a year.
2. You’ll save money
By avoiding trial, you’ll save money on attorney’s fees, court costs, and other expenses.
3. You’ll have more control
With ADR, you’ll have more of a chance to tell your side of the argument than at trial.
4. You’ll leave happier
Trials have winners and losers, and only one of them walks out of the courtroom happy. Even then, the side that wins in a court case may not be happy with the outcome.
But with alternative dispute resolution, Bucks County litigants can reach a win-win solution. And in instances where a legal battle involves two members of the same family, or longtime business partners, ADR can help preserve relationships after the case concludes.
When a court case calls for alternative dispute resolution, Bucks County residents can turn to the legal professionals at Benner and Wild.
Whether its mediation, arbitration or overseeing a settlement conference, our attorneys can help you reach an agreement that keeps you satisfied and keeps you out of court.