1. Negotiation - Negotiation is a process where two or more disputing parties meet together, identify and discuss the issues in dispute, and present facts and use supporting information to arrive at a solution that is mutually acceptable. Negotiation implies joint responsibility for the decisions. Unless impasse develops, the parties can settle their differences themselves. Negotiated settlements provide the best resolution because the parties have maximum control of the process, and are able to design an acceptable solution to their problem.
- Time: Very little
- Money: None
- Aggravation: Very little
- Anxiety: Very little
- Control: Maximum
2. Mediation - Mediation is a process whereby a neutral third person, called a mediator, acts to encourage and facilitate the resolution of a dispute without prescribing what it should be. It is an informal and non-adversarial process with the objective of helping the disputing parties reach a mutually acceptable agreement. Since the process is purely voluntary, either party can at any time reject further participation. The mediator has no authority to make decisions or to force the parties to accept any suggestions which the mediator may make for the settlement of the dispute.
- Time: Small investment
- Money: Relatively small fees
- Aggravation: Some
- Anxiety: Some
- Control: Nearly maximum
3. Med-Arb - Med-Arb is a combination of the mediation and the arbitration processes, using an acceptable impartial third person to assist and persuade the disputing parties toward a mutual settlement. If that is not successful, the mediator, using authority given by the parties, acts as an arbitrator, with the power to conduct hearings and to render a final and binding decision.
- Time: More time is needed to prepare a case
- Money: More money may be needed if attorneys are retained
- Aggravation: Some
- Anxiety: Some
- Control: Reduced due to the delegation of authority to the mediator if the parties fail to reach an agreement
4. Arbitration - Arbitration is a process that provides for the submission of a dispute to an impartial third party (may be a panel of people) for a decision that is final and usually binding on the parties. The arbitrator's decision is based on the facts and evidence presented by the parties in settlement of all issues submitted. The arbitrators are chosen by the parties and conduct a hearing to review testimony presented by the parties. The arbitration hearing is usually private, but formal in that prescribed rules are used to conduct the hearing. The award is enforceable in a court of law. Arbitration is very much like litigation. Rules of evidence and procedure apply and the parties usually each retain attorneys who spend the time and effort preparing for the arbitration hearing in much the same way as they would if they were litigating a case in court.
- Time: Much more, but not as long as litigation
- Money: More
- Aggravation: A great deal more
- Anxiety: A great deal more
- Control: Substantial delegation of control
The four methods of alternative dispute resolution briefly described above are user-friendly methods of avoiding a lawsuit. While it is true that some disputes must ultimately be resolved by the courts, the cost of pursuing a legal remedy can be staggering. Trial dockets are loaded, making a speedy resolution impossible. Legal fees have put the price of justice out of reach for many people. The aggravation, anxiety and uncertain results simply add to the reasons to avoid court.