One question I often get from my clients who are injured after accidents in PA or NJ, i.e., slip and fall accidents, car accidents, etc., is do we have to go to trial? The answer is probably not. Though televisions shows and movies always show dramatic courtroom trials, many cases actually do not go to trial. Many are settled prior to trial via other alternative dispute resolutions, such as mediation and arbitration.
Mediation and arbitration are increasingly popular for both plaintiffs and defendants in personal injury litigation. Mediation is a non-binding procedure in which a third party, typically a retired judge or a well regarded senior attorney, acts as a facilitator to help the two sides settle their case. Mediation is typically a half day or full day session in which both parties appear and present their positions to the mediator.
The mediator discusses with each party the relative strengths and weaknesses of their case. The mediator will go back and forth between the parties, and during these discussions, the mediator may ask the parties about a settlement figure. For example, the mediator may ask the injured party (plaintiff) for their demand or ask the at-fault party (defendant) for their offer. The mediator may also recommend a settlement figure for the case and see if the parties are willing to settle. If the parties can agree on a settlement figure, then the case is settled. If the parties cannot agree, then the parties will go to trial.
Arbitration, on the other hand, is usually binding. What this means is that whatever decision is reached by the arbitrator(s) at the arbitration, there will be no appeal of the arbitrator's decision. Arbitration is usually done by agreement of all parties involved in the case.
There can be a single arbitrator or a panel of arbitrators. Typically, the case will be presented to the arbitrator(s) in an abbreviated manner. For example, doctors may not testify, but the doctors' medical opinions are presented through medical records or reports submitted to the arbitrator(s). Typically, the plaintiff and the defendant will testify under oath at an arbitration. The arbitrator or panel of arbitrators then makes a decision on the case, finding for either the plaintiff or the defendant and awarding damages.
Both mediation and arbitration can speed up the litigation process and can often save both sides a lot of time and expense. The cost of a medical expert testifying can be astronomical. Using medical records at an arbitration or mediation obviously avoids the cost of having the medical experts testify in person.
FREE consultations - If you were injured and have questions about your personal injury accident case, whether it is a car accident, slip and fall accident or dog bite case, call Daniel J. O'Brien, Esq. at 877.944.8396.