What is alternative dispute resolution?
Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) is a way to resolve a claim or lawsuit without going all the way through a jury trial. The usual types of ADR are mediation and arbitration. Mediation is a way to resolve your dispute by hiring a professional mediator to listen to the parties’ grievances and assist with settling the disputes. Generally, the mediator does not decide what the case is “worth” but helps the parties narrow the gap between settlement offers and demands. The mediator does not determine the outcome of the case. The mediator’s recommendations are not binding on the parties, and if a settlement can’t be reached, the case continues toward trial.
Arbitration, unlike mediation, is a process whereby an arbitrator hears testimony and reviews evidence like a judge and makes a final and binding determination as to the parties’ claims and defenses. Sometimes parties can agree to go to arbitration to take a case out of the court system. Other times, such as in the case of uninsured and underinsured motorist claims, arbitration in Massachusetts is mandatory if a case can’t be settled.
Arbitration and Mediation Preparation
Whether your case proceeds with arbitration or mediation, you want to make sure that the mediator or arbitrator is neutral and fair. You want to also ensure that you are well prepared for the hearing, which includes having a clear and concise statement of the facts of your case, documentary evidence, medical records, medical bills, photographs, police reports, photographs and expert reports. Depending upon the type of case or injury, you should also give serious consideration to having a medical expert provide evidence to the mediator or arbitrator to describe the nature, extent, and permanency of your injury. Again, given that this is your chance to maximize your compensation, you want to present your absolute best case to the mediator or arbitrator.