When people have certain kinds of problems, they look to the American legal system. From civil rights cases to medical malpractice lawsuits and product liability cases and more. Many people think that the only recourse they have within the judicial system is to take the offending party to court. They imagine a situation like those that occur in any one of the legal dramas they have seen on television and in the movies.
The truth of the matter is that taking a case into the courtroom is not the only option. In fact, it is not the best course of action for most cases in all kinds of law. Another option is alternative dispute resolution (ADR). The good news about this option is that it can be started even if the litigation process has already begun. The parties in a lawsuit almost always have the option of trying out ADR. The ADR process encompasses a number of options such as collaborative law, negotiation, mediation and arbitration. There are a lot of benefits to trying an ADR method to come to a resolution in any number of cases.
The Benefits of Using ADR to Avoid Going to Court:
ADR costs a lot less.
It is no secret that the legal system in the United States is not the model of efficiency and speed. The discovery process alone is long, complicated and very expensive as a consequence. It may be hard to believe but in most of the country, litigants are given a lot of leeway when it comes to this part of any case. That means the process of deposing witnesses and exchanging files can take a very long time. As lawyers spend hours and hours on the case their fees rack up, then you have costs for things like making copies and mailing documents and then there are court reporter fees. There are also indirect costs that arise from going to court. Employees are taken away from their jobs to take care of depositions and taking care of other business related to the lawsuit. ADR generally results in a much faster and easier resolution.
ADR provides much quicker results and some flexibility.
As already noted, litigation can take a very long time. It can be years before the case even sees the courtroom. If you saw the movies, “A Civil Action” or “Erin Brockovich.” You have seen how long these cases can take. If you did not see them, they involved class action lawsuits against polluters. One could argue these are civil rights issues but it took ages to get the cases into court. With ADR intervention, the litigation process is arrested and a resolution can be reached. Because of the way ADR works, there is some flexility that going to court does not have.
The results are confidential.
If you go into a courtroom, everything becomes a part of the public record. For some cases that may not be a big deal. For cases that involve the protection of the common good such as civil rights, putting everything into that public record may be a great thing but for for other kinds of cases such as medial malpractice or intellectual property cases, confidentiality may be something that is a good thing. Any resolution that is arrived at through mediation or arbitration stays private. The same thing can be said about the process that led to that resolution. That may encourage one side to give up more than they normally would. In the famous McDonald’s hot coffee case, the jury originally granted the plaintiff millions of dollars. The parties went into ADR after that decision was found and another resolution was reached. That part of the story remains confidential.
The person who oversees ADR is neutral. This person is a professional expert in ADR and they can have no personal stake in the case they are overseeing. Both parties have to agree to who the person is so that they have no personal bias in the case.
At the end of the day, ADR can help move cases along so that a resolution that both sides can agree to and live with. It can be used for anything from civil rights to copyright and patent law.