If you have been injured in a car crash or other accident, there are several options for bringing your personal injury case to resolution. The most common way is to take the case to court through a lawsuit filed by a personal injury lawyer like this author, but that is not the only method. Although our judicial system in the United States is recognizable to most people, it is not the only way injury victims can seek to resolve a dispute.
In a personal injury case, you should seek to recover damages from the defendant: the party at fault for causing your injuries. Whether the defendant is a person or company, the most recognizable way to recover your damages is to sue that responsible party in a city, state, or federal court of law. Generally, when suing someone in court system, your case goes to trial in front of judge and possibly a jury. At that time, lawyers for you and the defendant will present evidence, witness testimony, and arguments about the facts related to your accident.
A judge or jury will decide the outcome of the case, including who was at fault and what, if any, amount of damages should be awarded. This process of taking a case to trial can be very lengthy and expensive for both sides, sometimes taking years to resolve the matter. This means, even if the defendant was fully at fault for your auto accident, it could be years before you receive any actual money from the responsible driver or his car insurance company. Appeals could lengthen the process even more. Also, juries can be quite unpredictable.
It is for these reasons that many personal injury matters are resolved outside of the courtroom before the case ever goes to trial. For the purpose of efficiency of both time and money, many cases never actually see the courtroom floor. Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) is a general term describing various techniques for resolving conflict outside of court using a neutral third party. In the case of an auto accident, usually the dispute usually focuses on these two questions:
ADR is a quick and efficient alternative to the court system. Some accident injury ADR cases start as court proceedings and later get resolved through alternative dispute resolution before going to trial. Others are never filed as lawsuits with courts at all.
Two of the most common ADR methods used to resolve the issues inherent to car accident personal injury cases are mediation and arbitration. This blog post will introduce you to both forms of ADR and highlight a few of their benefits. The differences in the two forms of ADR are described below.
Mediation is a non-binding method of alternative dispute resolution where an impartial third party, called a mediator, manages discussions between the opposing parties to help them to come to a mutual agreement and resolve the case.
The mediator’s job is to be a neutral party that helps guide negotiations and settlement between you and the defendant. In most cases, a mediator is able to help the parties decide on a mutually agreeable amount of damages to be paid by one party to the other, without having to bring the case to trial. That is to say, instead of taking the case to court where a judge and jury will decide on the outcome of the case, the parties (you and the defendant driver and his car insurance company) will come to an agreement on the outcome yourselves.
If the mediation process does not work, and the parties are not able to agree on a settlement of your personal injury claim, you still have the option of litigating the matter in court before a judge and jury at a later date.
Arbitration is a binding process where the parties agree to submit the case to an independent third party, called an arbitrator, for evaluation. Unlike mediation, in arbitration you and the defendant must adhere to the decision the arbitrator makes about your case.
An arbitrator is similar in many ways to a judge. Many arbitrators and mediators are, in fact, retired judges. The arbitrator reviews the evidence in the case and gives a decision that is legally binding on both sides. In this way, she is much more similar to a judge then a mediator. Like a judge, an arbitrator can tell both sides what to do. An arbitrator’s ruling is legally binding and final. The arbitration process is much faster and more efficient than bringing the case to trial in court, but, unlike with a judge and jury, you do not have the right to appeal the arbitrator’s ruling.
Both mediation and arbitration can help you avoid some of the formalities, delays, and expenses of ordinary litigation in a trial court. An injured car accident victim will usually recover money quicker through ADR than with actual courtroom litigation.
Since the parties do not typically appeal a mediation settlement or an arbitration ruling, ADR saves both sides the time and money of lengthy appellate fights. Because of this, the cost and expenses of resolving your case via ADR are often much less than by litigation.
As with anything, are also some risks involved in these processes. It is important to understand how mediation and arbitration work and how they apply to auto accident personal injury cases specifically. You should, therefore, consult an experienced personal injury lawyer before agreeing to arbitrate or mediate your car accident claims.
If you would like to know more about mediation, arbitration, and other ADR methods for resolving your case, contact one of our personal injury attorneys in Ponchatoula at 985-261-2076. Our lawyers help people like you every day, and we welcome your call.
Parker Layrisson Law Firm