Finding Middle Ground: Mediation as an Alternative to Litigation

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Americans have a reputation around the world for being very litigious. Popular culture has made an American suing somebody over trivial matters a cliché because of the robust litigation proceedings of the United States. However, prolonged legal battles are hardly that common in the country, most especially because they cost a lot of money.

According to experts, even a simple lawsuit can set you back at least $10,000 in legal fees, lost wages and other costs associated with litigating someone else. But what if you have a legitimate complaint against someone and want some form of compensation? 

This is when you have to choose between mediation or litigation. The quick guide below will tell you when one course of action is more appropriate than the other.

When Should You Mediate?

Female Lawyers in an Office Looking at a Computer
Some mediation may involve meetings between legal representatives instead.

Mediation is a legal proceeding in which a third-party representative known as a mediator discusses the possible middle ground between two parties. 

Companies and private individuals can use mediation in lieu of legal disputes. If the two people aren’t violent or upset with one another, they may be mediated face to face. If this isn’t the case, the mediator can talk to their representatives instead, although this can be costlier. So when should you consider getting a mediator instead of a lawsuit?

  • It’s a Simple Issue

Some issues can be brought to the court of law but are so simple both parties are better served by settling with a mediator. 

For example, if you and your neighbor are in a dispute about an overhanging tree in one’s property, a lawsuit should be the last resort for both parties. A mediator can effectively end any struggle and whip up paperwork that obligates someone to resolve the issue quickly. It will also cause a lot less drama and cost less money. 

Divorcing couples who are splitting up amicably are also encouraged to mediate their differences and their allocations of property instead of going to divorce court. 

  • You Agree on It

Mediation is only possible if all parties involved are willing to meet in the middle. If you or the other party are genuinely looking for a resolution to your issues rather than any large compensation, then you may very well both agree that sitting down with your lawyers and a mediator will suffice. 

Continuing the above example, if the overhanging tree is an issue that both you and your neighbor would rather resolve than try to extract money for damages, you can reach out for a mediation.

  • You Can’t Afford a Lawsuit

Finally, you may want to choose a mediator instead of a lawsuit simply because you do not have the time or resources to do so. Filing a lawsuit is incredibly demanding and expensive. Not only will you have to provide legal fees, but you’re also going to have to make time for meeting with your lawyer, sitting through depositions and doing all the associated tasks. 

There is also the question of whether or not you will receive enough compensation in the end to make all the money back. By contrast, a mediation session can cost significantly less money and be over far more quickly. 

When Should You Litigate?

A brown wooden gravel
Sometimes litigation is the only option.

On the opposite side is litigation, which means filing a civil lawsuit against an individual or enterprise. Litigation requires an attorney, but more complex cases may require several, especially if a company is involved. 

There are many types of litigation, ranging from worker’s compensation lawsuits to personal injury claims. The average time it takes to resolve these cases varies from case to case and field to field. For example, the average period between filing a case and getting compensation in a personal injury lawsuit is over 11 months

  • You Want Drastic Results

Litigation is always the best recourse if you want a company or individual to enact massive change. If you neighbor’s tree is the source of constant nuisance and poses a danger to your own home, you may sue them to have it cut down. 

A company can be sued because of sexist or racist policies as mediation can not force them to do so. If you want a drastic change to happen, a lawsuit or the threat of a sweeping lawsuit can be a very powerful tool.

  • There are Multiple Plaintiffs

Although mediation can be done between multiple plaintiffs against a single defendant, the presence of so many people with similar complaints can ensure that a lawsuit wins. 

If so, then the case can be resolved much faster especially if the defendant wants to settle out of court. This means that not  only will the plaintiffs receive compensation, they may also not have to shell out as much money during the entire process. 

  • You Can’t Agree

Finally, you may litigate after having a mediation session anyway. If you and the opposing party cannot agree on important points and won’t budge on certain issues, then further mediation may prove fruitless. 

Litigation then becomes your only option. Divorcing couples who cannot agree on child custody, finances and other obligations are prime examples of this. 

Choosing mediation instead of litigation can be effective for some cases, but you must always remember when you draw the line. Fighting for your right to fair compensation or to see justice served should never be compromised. 

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