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Mediation And Arbitration: What’s The Difference?


You may already know that if you have a personal injury case, it will resolve either in a trial before a jury, or by a settlement. Assuming you don’t want to go to trial, how does your case actually settle? Of course, one obvious way is just through negotiation–both sides (or their lawyers) on the phone trying to work out an agreement.

But there are two other ways that cases settle. These are what are known as alternative dispute resolution. They are mediation and arbitration, and even if you want to go to trial in your case, there’s a good chance that the court will force you to undergo some sort of dispute resolution process (likely mediation) before you’re even allowed to bring your case to trial.

What is Arbitration?

Arbitration is a process where your case is not heard in court or decided by a judge or jury at all. Rather, your case is decided by a neutral arbitrator. The arbitrator will conduct what can be called a “mini trial,” which is much less formal than a full trial in court. The arbitrator will consider evidence and testimony, and then render a decision.

The arbitrator’s decision is generally binding; you can’t later go to court if you don’t like what the arbitrator decided.

Usually, arbitration is involuntary. That means that you have to arbitrate because you signed a contract or agreement that requires that you bring your case before an arbitrator. Even if you want a full trial with a jury and a judge, you won’t get one if you are forced to arbitrate. Many commercial contracts, tickets, or other agreements, have mandatory arbitration clauses contained in them.

What is Mediation?

Mediation is much different than arbitration. In mediation, there is a mediator, but he or she decides nothing. Rather, the mediator is a “go between,” trying to get both you and the other side to come to an agreement.

Everything you say in mediation is confidential–it isn’t used against you later in court, if you don’t.

Your attorney will present what evidence you will provide at trial, and both sides will posture, presenting the information that they have to the other side (although there is no obligation to disclose any information at all in mediation).

The mediator will have both sides consider the weaknesses of their case, in order to pressure both sides to be more reasonable in their positions, in the hopes of settling the case.

If you settle your case in mediation, your case is settled on whatever terms you agreed to. You will likely sign a mediation agreement or settlement agreement there at the mediation.

But you don’t have to settle at all–if you don’t settle, the case goes on the way it would have done if you never mediated. You can still settle the case later on, or you can take your case all the way to trial.

Let us help you every step of the way in your injury case. Call the West Palm Beach personal injury attorneys at Pike & Lustig today.




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