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Using Arbitration To Resolve Legal Disputes

Arbitration is a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR). It provides an alternative to civil court lawsuits and trials, the traditional method for resolving legal disputes. There's been an increase in the use of ADR techniques to resolve disputes due to concerns about:

  • Court congestion and delays
  • Rising litigation costs
  • Litigation's negative psychological and emotional impact

If you're considering arbitration, it's essential to understand how the process works in the context of the dispute at issue. This article discusses the benefits of arbitration and the traditional arbitration model, the arbitration process, and forms of arbitration.

The Benefits of Arbitration

Arbitration is the most formal alternative to litigation. In the arbitration process, the disputing parties present their case to a neutral third party. The neutral third party renders a decision. Disputing parties use arbitration to resolve claims in both the private and public sectors.

In general, arbitration is a more efficient process than litigation. This is because it is:

  • Quicker
  • Less expensive
  • Provides greater flexibility in process and procedure

In arbitration, the parties often select the arbitrator. They can also exercise control over aspects of the arbitration procedure. Arbitrators typically have more expertise in the specific subject matter of the dispute than judges. They may also have greater flexibility in decision-making.

Traditional Arbitration Model

Under the traditional arbitration model, parties voluntarily participate in the arbitration process. Participation may result from a preexisting contract provision. Parties can also enter into an agreement to arbitrate after a dispute has arisen.

Arbitration agreements address the process for hearing and resolving a dispute. It's important to read the fine print before you sign one. These agreements generally provide a method for determining the following:

  • The arbitrator or panel of arbitrators
  • The format of the hearing
  • The procedural and evidentiary rules in effect
  • The controlling law

If the contract's arbitration clause or arbitration provisions don't provide these details, the parties may seek help from agencies that administer arbitrations. Common agencies include the American Arbitration Association (AAA) and JAMS. An arbitration agreement may specify both the agency and the arbitration rules that will govern the dispute.

The Arbitration Process

In most cases, a party initiates the arbitration process by sending the other party a written demand for arbitration. The demand describes:

  • The parties
  • The dispute
  • The type of relief sought

The opposing party usually responds in writing, indicating whether they believe the dispute is arbitrable. If the conflict is arbitrable, the parties then select an arbitrator or panel of arbitrators known as an arbitral tribunal.

In most jurisdictions, the format for arbitration is like a trial. The parties:

Notably, the rules of evidence that apply to trials do not apply to arbitration proceedings. The discovery and cross-examination opportunities are also limited. Arbitrators can order parties to submit to depositions and other pre-hearing discovery at their discretion. In most cases, people engage in binding arbitration. This means that an arbitrator issues a binding decision. There may be limited opportunities for appeal.

Forms of Arbitration

There are different forms of arbitration. Compulsory arbitration is growing in the United States. Compulsory arbitration means mandatory arbitration. This is particularly true in the areas of:

  • Public sector employment disputes
  • Court-annexed programs
  • Medical malpractice disputes
  • Credit card disputes
  • Consumer product disputes

Several states have legislation requiring critical public employees such as police officers, teachers, and firefighters to arbitrate as the final step in negotiating the terms of their collective bargaining agreements. Court-annexed arbitration, also known as court-mandated arbitration, is compulsory for specific categories of civil cases in many state and federal district courts.

Court-annexed arbitration differs from the traditional arbitration model in several ways. It often requires parties to arbitrate. Parties have a right to a trial if they aren't satisfied with the arbitrator's decision or their arbitration award. In some systems, though, parties must pay court costs or arbitrators' fees if they don't have a better outcome at trial.

Regardless of the type of arbitration under consideration, it's essential to be fully aware of the benefits and any restrictions you may encounter when using arbitration to resolve legal issues.

You Don't Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer's Help

Arbitration cases often resemble standard litigation. Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand whether an alternative dispute resolution process, such as arbitration, makes sense in your case. Visit our ADR attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help. Arbitration is one of several alternative dispute resolution methods.

An attorney can guide you through the dispute resolution procedures available to you. They can help you reach conflict resolution, whether that means moving forward with court proceedings or an arbitration hearing.

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You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

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Next Steps

Contact a qualified attorney to represent your interests in the arbitration or mediation of your dispute.

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