If you have a legal dispute, a trial can be one of the most expensive and time-consuming ways to resolve your case. Depending on your case, you may find that a trial may also lead to undesirable outcomes. However, there are a number of other methods available for those that want to stay out of court. In this article, we’ll take a look some of the most common methods to settle disputes without a trial.
Negotiation is perhaps the simplest of the alternatives to trial. Essential, those who are involved in a dispute (or their representative attorneys) communicate with one another to try to reach an agreement. The parties involved offer terms and conditions to satisfy the other party. If there is no agreement between the parties, other methods of resolving the dispute may be necessary to avoid a trial.
While it seems like a no-brainer, many people jump the gun and immediately assume the worst when dealing with unfavorable conditions. Instead, a level-headed approach to negotiation with reasonable expectations and willingness to compromise may actually resolve matters in a fair way.
Mediation is the process of using a mediator (a neutral party) to help those on both ends of a dispute reach an agreement. Similar to negotiation, the mediator facilitates discussions and allows for both sides to realize the viewpoints of the other. Typically, this is done in confidentiality (something that a trial cannot guarantee). Because of the neutrality of the mediator, they cannot come to any conclusion nor decide the case in favor of one party over another. However, mediation can serve as a viable method where negotiation alone cannot.
Arbitration is similar to mediation, but with a few notable differences. First, an arbitrator reviews presentations from both sides, (including testimony from experts, witnesses, documents relating to the case, etc.) much in the way that a trial judge would. Second, the arbitrator makes a final decision concerning the details of the case.
This decision may be binding or non-binding. Binding decisions are final and cannot be challenged; non-binding decisions are not final and may be appealed if the decision isn’t felt to be satisfactory. This, however, leads to a trial, where the same of evidence and arguments must be presented again.