How Does Arbitration Work?
Arbitration is a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) that is used in many business law cases. In fact, many commercial contracts actually compel arbitration as the means to deal with any legal disputes. Arbitration is a private process that in many ways resembles a mini-version of a trial. It is also a notoriously complex process. If you are going through arbitration proceedings, it is imperative that you have an experienced attorney by your side.
Five Important Stages of the Arbitration Process
- Selecting an Arbitrator
The arbitration process begins with the selection of an arbitrator. The arbitrator is the neutral party who will be empowered to make a final decision in the dispute. This will be done after hearing the each party present its side of the case. It is critical that the appropriate arbitrator is selected for your dispute. The American Arbitration Association (AAA) keeps a list of arbitrators along with their experience and qualification. Obviously, arbitrators have a considerable amount of power, so the importance of selecting the right one can not be overstated.
- The Pre-trial Conference
Most arbitration proceedings will include a pre-trial conference. In many cases, this conference will be conducted remotely, either over the phone or through a telecommunication program such as Skype. The primary purpose of this conference is to hammer out the key procedural matters of the case. For example, all issues of scheduling will be dealt with during the pre-trial conference.
In many cases, discovery will be necessary. The AAA has a rule which governs discovery proceedings during arbitration. The rule allows parties to make reasonable requests for information in accordance with the expectations of each party going into the case. It also empowers the arbitrator to exercise necessary discretion when compelling documents during discovery.
- The Hearing
Hearings usually begin with an opening statement from each party. Then, each side will have an opportunity to present evidence and make their case. Witnesses can be introduced by either side. The arbitrator will likely ask questions throughout the process and eventually this will lead to closing statements. Proper preparation is the key to any successful arbitration. You should never go into arbitration on your own. You need an experienced arbitration lawyer by your side throughout the process.
- The Decision
Finally, after the completion of the hearing, each party will have to wait for the final decision of the arbitrator. In most cases this decision will be issued within thirty to ninety days. Though, it can take longer. While decisions can be appealed, it is important to note that appeal rights for arbitration awards are very limited. Courts will generally only overturn an arbitrator’s decision if there was an egregious error. When it comes to arbitration, it is imperative that you get it right the first time.
Do You Need Legal Advice?
If your company is going through arbitration, our team can help. At Pike & Lustig, LLP, our West Palm Beach arbitration attorneys have extensive experience protecting the rights of businesses throughout South Florida. For immediate legal assistance, please call our office today at (561) 291-8298.