Most people assume that having a trial before a jury is the ultimate goal of a lawsuit. But lawsuits can be resolved in many ways, without ever reaching a jury. In fact, early resolution, through an alternative to trial, may lead to a more successful outcome. There are several different methods of resolving a legal dispute, short of going to trial. These methods are collectively referred to as “alternative dispute resolution.”
What types of alternative dispute resolution are there
The term “alternative dispute resolution” generally refers to any method of resolving a legal dispute other than through litigation. The three most commonly used methods of alternative dispute resolution are negotiation, mediation and arbitration. Other examples are neutral evaluation and conciliation.
Negotiation is the most commonly used alternative to trial
Negotiation allows the parties to get together and discuss the strengths and weaknesses of their respective cases in an effort to settle their disputes. One of the primary benefits of private negotiation is that the parties retain the ability to control the entire process and the terms of any possible solution.
In civil lawsuits, such as personal injury claims, settlement occurs when the defendant agrees to some or all of the plaintiff’s claims and agrees to pay the plaintiff some type of compensation. Settlement is a popular choice for many reasons, the most common being the opportunity to avoid the high cost of litigation. Trials are often very expensive.
Mediation as an alternative to trial
Mediation is also an informal alternative to trial. Mediation is similar to negotiation, in that the goal and possible outcomes are primarily the same. However, with mediation, a neutral party serves as a “mediator” to facilitate the conversations between the parties. Mediators are individuals trained in negotiations, who bring opposing parties together and attempt to work out a settlement or agreement that both parties accept or reject. While most mediation programs are completely voluntary, some courts have begun to make mediation a mandatory part of the litigation process.
Arbitration is an alternative more similar to trial
Arbitration is essentially a simplified version of a trial. The main difference is the absence of a jury of your peers to decide your case. Actually, arbitration is most similar to a bench trial, where a judge decides the merits of the case. Arbitration allows for only limited discovery and more simplified rules of evidence. An arbitrator serves as the decision maker on the merits of the dispute. The decision made by the arbitrator is binding.
Why would I consider an alternative to trial?
Although the right to a jury trial is fundamental, there can still be disadvantages to going that route. Again, jury trials can be expensive and very time consuming. Depending on the court and the nature and complexity of the claims, a jury trial can last days, weeks or months.
One of the biggest concerns that most attorneys have with juries is their unpredictability. Juries are heavily influenced by the personalities of the people who make up each individual jury. There is very little that the parties to a lawsuit can do to guard against the negative influence a particular juror or set of jurors can have on the outcome of the case. All it takes is 1 or 2 strong personalities to shift the verdict.
If you have questions regarding automobile accidents, or any other personal injury concerns, please contact the Cottrell Law Office by calling us at (888) 433-4861.
He is licensed to practice law in the United States District Court for the District of Kansas, eastern Arkansas, western Arkansas, and western Missouri. He was Deputy Prosecuting Attorney in Crawford County, Kansas from 1987-1989.
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