Resolve your dispute out of court

Before you file a lawsuit, you should consider whether you can resolve your dispute out of court. Many people do this through alternative dispute resolution or ADR for short.

Using ADR to solve disputes

There are many benefits to using alternative dispute resolution:

  • It can save you time, since it can take a lot less time to work out and write up an agreement than go through a trial, which can take a year or more. 
  • It can save you money, since you can avoid paying attorney's fees, court costs and fees, expert witness fees, and other expenses. Also, because you finish your case sooner and do not have to go to court, you avoid having to take off from work. 
  • It can give you more control over the case and the outcome. In ADR, you participate more actively in creating a workable solution than if you go to court and leave the decision up to a judge or a jury. Also, you can create solutions that go beyond what the court can do but that address your situation and your dispute better.

There are different types of dispute resolution

A neutral party can work with you to resolve your dispute in a variety of ways:

In mediation, a neutral person called a "mediator" helps both sides communicate and try to reach a solution to their dispute that is acceptable to both of them.

The mediator does not make any decisions about the dispute. They just help both sides talk through the issues so they can settle the dispute themselves. Mediation leaves control of the outcome to the people involved in the dispute.

In arbitration, a neutral person called an "arbitrator"

  • Hears each side's position and arguments
  • Looks at the evidence from each side
  • Makes a decision about the dispute.

Arbitration is less formal than a trial and the rules are more relaxed.

Arbitration can be binding or nonbinding. Binding arbitration means that both sides agree to accept the arbitrator's decision as final, whether they like it or not. It also means they waive their right to a trial. Nonbinding arbitration means that if either side is not satisfied with the arbitrator's decision, they can ask for a trial.

In neutral evaluation, a neutral person called an evaluator listens to summaries of the evidence and arguments from both sides. The evaluator gives their opinion about 

  • The strengths and weaknesses of each side's case
  • How the dispute could be resolved

The evaluator is often an expert in the subject matter of the dispute. The evaluator's opinion is not binding but is often a good basis for trying to work out a settlement of the dispute.

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