3 Ways to Resolve Disputes Without Going to Court

by Team eLocal
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Sometimes no amount of talking to the other party can settle a dispute, so legal action is the natural next step. However, many civil cases never make it to the courtroom. Using various conflict resolution methods, often with the help of a third party, can help you come to an agreement and resolve the issue much faster than going to trial.

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Here’s an overview of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) methods that may help you resolve your civil case without going to court.

What Are Some Ways of Resolving Disputes That Don't Involve Going to Court?

Most out-of-court conflict resolution methods are voluntary. Involved third parties might offer recommendations or facilitate communications. Exploring various ADR methods helps you understand your options and choose one that works well for your situation.

1. Negotiation

Negotiation is an informal process that can happen at any time during the process. You simply contact the other party and try to come to an agreement. You can meet in person or send a letter with a proposed solution. If you want help with the negotiations, you can hire an attorney to negotiate on your behalf. The other party can also use a lawyer to help with the negotiations.

Trying to negotiate before you file your case could save you on legal fees and help you resolve the situation faster. Even after you file the case, you can still reach out to negotiate before it goes to court. If you successfully negotiate an outcome that both parties accept, you can create a settlement agreement that's legally enforceable to ensure both parties follow through with the terms.

2. Mediation

When you choose mediation, you'll have the help of an impartial mediator to facilitate communication. Both parties decide how they communicate, the resolutions they suggest and the details of the agreement that's reached. Mediation can happen with both parties in the same room, or the mediator can act as a go-between, working with each party individually.

Mediators typically listen to both parties. They might help identify the issues. Sometimes they suggest solutions, but they might also support the parties and let them come up with the solutions themselves. The mediator can't force a decision on the parties. This option is usually best when both parties are willing to work together and create a solution that benefits everyone.

3. Arbitration

Arbitration is a more formal alternative dispute resolution method. The arbitrator essentially acts as a judge, listening to the details and making a decision. It's often conducted like a mini-trial, with both parties testifying and presenting evidence. However, arbitration is typically less formal than a trial.

In binding arbitration, the decision is upheld regardless of whether you like the outcome, and appeal options are limited. Nonbinding arbitration allows you to request a trial if you don't like the outcome, but this isn't as common as binding arbitration. Arbitration is common in labor disputes, and some contracts include arbitration clauses that require this method if a dispute arises. It can be beneficial if you don't think you can come to a resolution on your own but want to avoid the time and cost of a full trial.

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Reasons to Consider Alternative Dispute Resolution Options

Using conflict resolution methods outside of court can offer many benefits. Some ADR methods offer different benefits, but the general advantages of any method include:

  • Speed: Resolving disputes out of court is generally much faster than going to trial. You don't have to wait for a court date, and you don't have to sit through days in the courtroom to get a resolution.
  • Cost: You'll typically save money with alternative dispute resolution. Even if you hire a lawyer to help, the process is faster and easier, so the lawyer's fees are lower.
  • Control: Many resolution methods give you more control over the outcome. With negotiation and mediation, you don't have to accept someone else's decision. You decide whether the resolution is good for you. Arbitration gives you less control over the outcome.
  • Enforceable: Most outcomes from these resolution methods are enforceable in court. In other words, if the other party doesn't hold up their end, you can take them to court.
  • Less structured: Handling resolutions outside of the courtroom is less formal. This can make the process less stressful.
  • Creative solutions: Since you're suggesting solutions in many of these scenarios, you can be more creative than the traditional outcomes in a court case.

Conflict resolution methods aren't always successful. If both parties can't agree to the terms, you might still end up in court. However, attempting to work with the other party and being willing to compromise could help you avoid a lengthy trial and let you move on faster.

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