What Is the Difference Between Mediation, Arbitration, and Litigation?

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Mediation, arbitration, and litigation are all methods of resolving a legal dispute. The differences between them boil down to the level of control you have in the process.

Mediation is like couples counseling. Each party shares their side and the mediator tries to help them find a resolution without telling them what to do. Arbitration is settled like a family dispute. The parents are the arbitrators and have the final word on the resolution of the legal issue, but they allow each side to participate in setting some rules for the discussion. Litigation is similar to arbitration, but the rules for trial are preset, and the judge must follow the law when deciding the case. 

What Happens in Mediation?

Used by businesses, individuals, and even the courts, mediation is seen as a way to resolve legal issues. It is common for the court to order plaintiffs and defendants to try mediation before taking a case to trial. A surprising number of differences are resolved when the two parties agree to sit down and talk things out––and a lawyer can lend their insights during the process. 

The rules and ways of mediation are flexible and typically include the following:

  • A mediator guides the meeting. Mediators are neutral third parties who have experience and possibly professional training in the field of mediation. 
  • The mediator helps each side express their views and helps keeps the discussion civil and on target. 
  • The mediator does not decide the outcome, and nothing the mediator says is binding. They help the involved parties through the sometimes-difficult task of talking and listening to each other to try and reach an agreement, if possible. 
  • If the parties reach an agreement during mediation, they can write it down and sign it, making it legal and binding. The mediator has no authority in this process.
  • Mediation and what constitutes a resolution is flexible and determined by the participants.

What is said during mediation is private and confidential, although there are exceptions. The signed agreement is less likely to be confidential, but there are exceptions to that rule. 

Compared to a trial, mediation can be a quick, easy, and inexpensive way to resolve a legal problem. Another benefit to mediation is you have a say in the resolution. In a trial, the judge or jury decide for you. One of our trial attorneys will go over all of the rules that apply to your case before you begin the mediation process.

To consult with an experienced litigation / legal dispute lawyer today, call 855-780-9986

What Are the Rules and Methods of Arbitration?

Arbitration is another way to resolve legal issues between parties. It is sometimes written into business contracts as the method that will be used in disputes, or the court may insist that the involved parties use arbitration rather than or before agreeing to a trial.

The arbitration process is more like litigation than mediation. It must follow strict rules, as is done at trial, but there is a little more leeway in arbitration. The process looks like this:

  • Florida has rules for who may act as an arbitrator. Each local circuit has a list of qualified persons who could oversee your arbitration. They act as the judge or judges in your case.
  • The arbitration decision may be binding on non-binding. You will know which it is before you engage in it. Binding arbitration provides a resolution that you must accept. Generally, you cannot file a lawsuit or appeal the decision. Non-binding usually means that if you are unhappy with the resolution, you may file a lawsuit or an appeal.
  • Each party may file documents, interview witnesses, and present evidence, as your attorney would at trial.
  • The arbitrator(s) have the final say in deciding the case, as a judge or jury would at trial.

Arbitration, like mediation, is usually faster and less expensive than a trial. Although, we suggest working with an attorney if you’re going through arbitration because of the rules similar to litigation. You don’t want a single misstep to jeopardize your case’s outcome. 

How Is Litigation Different from Mediation and Arbitration?

Alternative dispute resolution is popular in Florida and around the U.S. because parties have more say in how a resolution is reached and what the resolution may be. Plus, there’s a significant difference between mediation or arbitration and litigation. Here’s what to know: 

The Judge Has More Power in Trials

A judge is free to demand more information and broaden discovery, unlike an arbitrator. Also, all parties must be informed of or a part of all conversations, unlike in mediation where the mediator may speak privately and confidentially with either party. 

The Judge Makes the Verdict

The verdict issued by the court in your civil case is binding unless your attorney can show that a legal mistake was made during the trial and that the mistake affected the trial’s outcome, warranting an appeal. Appealing an arbitrator’s decision is more difficult. In mediation, the parties agree or don’t agree on a resolution and cannot be forced into a decision. 

A trial judge usually has to offer an explanation or statement with the verdict, unlike arbitrators, for whom there is less transparency. 

Litigation Is a Matter of Public Record

All civil trials are public record. This means that anyone can look at the details of your lawsuit and glean information from their findings. Many mediation and arbitration sessions are private matters, only known to those involved. This offers an extra layer of privacy if you’re dealing with a sensitive legal situation. 

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Choosing Mediation, Arbitration, or Litigation

Given the opportunity to choose between mediation, arbitration, or litigation, the decision can be a tough one to make. It may seem easier to have the court choose for you. But, each method of dispute resolution has its benefits. 

Our attorneys at Bogin, Munns & Munns offer free case evaluations, providing you an opportunity to have your legal options reviewed by a legal team experienced in Florida’s alternative dispute resolutions. Connect with our legal team and explore your options now. 

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