Alternative dispute resolution (ADR), an umbrella concept that includes arbitration and mediation, has grown into a popular approach to solving legal disputes. It often arises in commercial disputes, where many contracts require the parties in a dispute to pursue mediation or arbitration before anyone can sue. It can also come up in cases involving personal injury. In recent years online ADR has become an increasingly viable and robust alternative to conducting relatively expensive, in-person processes. Should someone who has been injured agree to pursue the online ADR approach instead of filing a lawsuit?
Cost and speed are the chief reasons for pursuing resolution of legal disputes through mediation and arbitration. Mediation in particular can offer a particularly speedy and inexpensive route to a settlement. In mediation the two sides of a dispute sit down to negotiate a resolution of their problems, with a mediator acting as a neutral facilitator. The mediator isn’t a judge, and the two sides in the dispute don’t need to go through the complex and sometimes expensive process of developing evidence that would be suitable for a court. To reach a final outcome, the parties in a mediation need to reach agreement about how they’ll resolve their dispute. In the case of personal injury, that might involve the responsible party agreeing to pay a certain amount of money to the injured person.
Arbitration is essentially “litigation lite,” with an arbitrator standing in for a judge. Arbitration is streamlined and simplified when compared to litigation, but rules of evidence and procedure make the process considerably closer to litigation than mediation is. The two sides to the dispute can call witnesses, present evidence, and make their arguments in an adversarial setting. At the end of the process the arbitrator will reach a conclusion which, in some circumstances, may be binding upon both sides of the dispute.
Online dispute resolution is a concept in its relative infancy with a spotty history. Websites offering various kinds of dispute resolution services have come and gone over the years, mostly with little success to show for it. In theory, an online process offers many of the same advantages of mediation or, to a lesser degree, arbitration. It can be relatively fast, informal, and confidential. It can also be conducted between parties who are located anywhere in the world, removing barriers that might make other forms of ADR difficult (cost of travel, disability concerns, and so forth).
The potential downsides of online dispute resolution are considerable. For starters, any conclusion reached in an online forum may not be legally enforceable in a court. It also doesn’t necessarily provide a mechanism for resolving difficult questions, which can make it unsuitable for controversies where important facts are in dispute. This is a common problem with personal injury cases. Complex issues like medical diagnoses will be difficult or impossible to resolve in a satisfactory way without the tools available in more formal settings.
Even in cases where an online solution may offer a fast, simple approach to resolving a dispute, it’s important to consult with an attorney to understand the benefits and risks of such an approach. An attorney can help the client protect his or her interests, avoid traps set by the defense, and evaluate whether an online process needs to be abandoned for another approach. For over 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has represented Las Vegas clients in personal injury cases. To learn how we can be of help in your case, call us today for a free attorney consultation. We can be reached at 702-388-4476 or send us a request through our site.