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Arbitration vs. Mediation: Alternatives to Going to Trial

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Client and lawyer shaking hands showing agreement over case.

Not all personal injury cases go to trial. Many plaintiffs reach a result by going through a form of alternative dispute resolution such as arbitration or mediation. For this reason, you should understand how those processes work as well as their potential pros and cons.

Here, we provide an overview of arbitration and mediation and what makes them different from going to trial. If you would like to learn more and discuss your case, please contact Marks & Harrison to speak with an experienced, knowledgeable personal injury attorney.

What Is Arbitration?

Arbitration is similar to a trial. However, instead of presenting your case to a judge and jury, you present it to an arbitrator who essentially will function as both the judge and jury. The arbitrator will hear both sides of the case, decide which evidence to consider and, ultimately, decide whether to award any damages and, if so, the amount of the damages award.

Unless the parties agree otherwise, the arbitrator’s decision will be final and legally binding. However, in some instances, you may be able to appeal an arbitrator’s decision. For instance, if serious wrongdoing or ethical violations arose during the arbitration process, it may be grounds to get the arbitrator’s decision thrown out.

Old senior taking down notes.Arbitration is a process that has generated a great deal of controversy. In particular, many contracts today have “binding mandatory arbitration clauses” that companies bury in the contract’s fine print. Without realizing it, people may enter into an agreement that requires them to resolve any dispute they have with the company through arbitration instead of going through our traditional civil justice system. The concern is that an arbitrator who is friendly to the company will decide the case rather than an impartial judge or jury. Insurance companies, nursing homes and hospitals often try to use these clauses to force people into arbitration.

If you have a case that  involves a binding mandatory arbitration clause – for instance, a case involving nursing home abuse – you should consult with an experienced personal injury attorney right away. The attorney can closely review the clause and help you to determine whether you can pursue any other options.

What Is Mediation?

Mediation is different from arbitration. It involves the use of a neutral mediator who works with both parties to help them reach an agreement. After the mediator hears arguments from both sides, the mediator will speak to each of them individually and act as a liaison between parties. The goal is to help find terms of a settlement that both sides can agree on.

Unlike an arbitrator, the mediator will not issue a binding decision. Instead, the mediator typically will ask both parties to sign a statement which acknowledges their agreement. If the parties cannot reach any kind of deal they are free to leave the mediation process and negotiate on their own or take the case to trial.

One of the benefits of mediation is that the process will not leave you with an outcome that you cannot stomach. You will either reach an agreement that you can accept because you believe it serves your best interests, or you can walk away from mediation and try a different route. Throughout the mediation process your lawyer will fight for you providing an honest assessment of any potential agreement. However, the decision of whether to accept a mediated settlement will be yours and yours alone.

How Can a Lawyer Help Me to Pursue My Best Option?

If you suffered an injury in a car accident, slip and fall or other type of accident, or if you believe that you or a loved one may have a nursing home abuse or neglect case, medical malpractice or defective product claim, you should seek help from an experienced personal injury attorney right away. The attorney will review the facts of the case and explain all possible avenues available to you in order to pursue the compensation that you deserve.

At Marks & Harrison, we provide free consultations to injury victims that help them to assess their case and weigh their options. If we work together on your case, our attorneys will always listen carefully to your input, keep your goals at the forefront and tailor our approach to best achieve those goals – whether it is through arbitration, mediation, trial or some other option. We will always give you detailed information about the options that you can pursue and we will keep you informed of all settlement offers that you receive from the other party.

Our mission will always be to maximize the amount of compensation that you recover for your injuries and the losses you have suffered through no fault of your own. With offices in Richmond and throughout Virginia, we can meet with you today about your case. The sooner we get started, the sooner we can start to assess your options. So, don’t hesitate. For more information about how we can help you, call or contact us online today and let us provide you with a free consultation.

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