Civil lawsuits are filed daily with the state’s court system. If the courts had to conduct a trial for every lawsuit, the cost to taxpayers would be astronomical. In addition, the cost of legal representation for the parties would be significant. Fortunately, the vast majority of civil cases are settled by agreement of the parties. Sometimes this happens early on by the attorneys for each side talking with one another and their respective clients. Many cases, however, need outside intervention to reach resolution, and that is where alternative dispute resolution comes in.
ADR refers to settling disputes outside of litigation. There are a number of different ADR methods, but those that are most often used are arbitration, mediation, mini-trials, summary jury trials, and private judges. For each of these, the Indiana Rules of Court prescribe standards governing its use. The most commonly used are arbitration and mediation.
Many disputes that are settled through arbitration never make it to the court system in the first place. That is because parties to contracts have agreed ahead of time to use this approach for dispute resolution instead of court litigation. Suits that have been filed with the courts may also be resolved through arbitration if the parties agree to pause the proceedings and participate in arbitration.
In an arbitration, a neutral evaluator is engaged to hear the facts and evidence from both sides of a dispute and render a decision that covers all or some of the issues. There are two types of arbitration: 1) binding and 2) non-binding. In binding arbitration, the parties agree at the outset to accept the evaluator’s decision. In non-binding arbitration, either party can reject the recommendation and move forward with the lawsuit.
In a mediation, discussion between the parties is facilitated by a neutral party that has been agreed to by the parties or appointed by the court. The mediator helps the parties clarify the issues of the dispute, clear up any misunderstandings, recognize their priorities, explore possibilities for compromise, and decide whether an agreement is attainable. Mediators are licensed attorneys who have completed an established amount of mediation training.
Mediation may occur because the parties have mutually agreed to use this method of resolution, or it may be required by the court. The court may unilaterally decide to refer a case to mediation, or it may do so on the motion of one of the parties. If the court refers a case to mediation on its own motion or on the request of one party, an objecting party may file an objection. However, because there is nothing to lose in a mediation, objections are infrequent.
At Blackburn & Green, we understand the value of litigation, arbitration, and mediation and the potential benefits of each for our clients. If you were injured due to someone else’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation for items such as medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Call (800) 444-1112 or (260) 422-4400 to schedule a free consultation at any of our 27 conveniently located offices.