Pennsylvania Alternative Dispute Resolution Basics

Pennsylvania provides numerous avenues for alternative dispute resolution, such as mediation and arbitration, which can help save time and money, make the litigation process less stressful, and maximize the possibility of recovery. Read on to learn more.

Trial litigation can be quite undesirable for certain plaintiffs, depending on the circumstances surrounding the lawsuit.

How so?

1) Lawsuits can be costly and time-consuming, and may result in a great deal of anxiety and stress over the course of litigation. The psychological and financial burden of extensive litigation can be too much for some plaintiffs.

2) The result of your lawsuit is fundamentally uncertain. You cannot — with 100% accuracy — predict whether you will succeed at trial, and even if you do succeed, what damages you will be awarded.

3) Your lawsuit is a matter of public interest, which means that the details of litigation can be accessed by members of the public. Sensitive and private information can be revealed to the public if you litigate a case all the way through to trial.

Fortunately, Pennsylvania law provides for alternative dispute resolution options so that you can avoid litigation (if you decide that doing so is preferable). In Pennsylvania, you have several avenues for alternative dispute resolution available to you, but the two most common forms are “mediation” and “arbitration.”

Let’s take a brief look.

Understanding Mediation

Mediation is an informal dispute resolution process where a neutral mediator facilitates a compromise between the involved parties. Whereas traditional litigation is adversarial, mediation is collaborative in nature. The mediator meets with the parties — from a few hours to a full day, if necessary — and works with each side to help negotiate a compromise agreement that everyone is satisfied with. If a satisfactory compromise is reached, then the parties can agree to the negotiated settlement (making further adjustments where necessary) and wind down the lawsuit.

As the atmosphere of mediation is neutral, informal, and non-adversarial, parties in high-conflict lawsuits often find that mediation helps them understand the perspective of the other side more clearly, which can lead to a genuine compromise where one otherwise might not have been reached. Of course, in the event that a satisfactory agreement between the parties cannot be reached during mediation, a compromise will not be forced — if mediation fails, the parties can simply continue with the litigation process.

Understanding Arbitration

Arbitration is a more formal dispute resolution process where a neutral arbitrator acts in a manner similar to that of a judge in a trial. In an arbitration, all parties present their arguments, along with relevant evidence, and the arbitrator makes a decision based on the presented arguments (and the weight of the evidence). Despite being more structured and formal than mediation, arbitration is much more condensed than traditional litigation and is therefore completed much faster and at lower cost.

There are many different categories of arbitration.

1) If the parties agree to a “mandatory arbitration” beforehand, then the parties must go through arbitration.

2) by contrast, “voluntary arbitration” does not require the parties to go through the process of arbitration — instead, the parties may choose to go through arbitration if they like.

3) when the parties have agreed to a “binding arbitration,” then the decision of the neutral arbitrator must be accepted by each party as final.

4) if the decision reached by the neutral arbitrator is “non-binding,” then the parties can choose not to accept the decision as final and may proceed with traditional litigation.

Ultimately, a decision reached by the arbitrator must be confirmed by a Pennsylvania court before it is given the full force of law.

Archer Law is a large, multi-practice Mid-Atlantic firm with over 85 years of success in the industry. Archer prides itself on delivering large-firm expertise with small-firm attention, no matter the size of the client. If you are involved in litigation, Archer will provide industry-leading legal guidance and services to help you obtain the best result, whether through alternative dispute resolution or through the traditional litigation process.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.

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