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Nelson C. Barry Discusses the Basics of Alternative Dispute Resolution

Going through a full personal injury trial is undoubtedly the most costly, time-intensive way to solve a dispute. If you were injured, you are likely dealing with either an uninsured defendant or the defendant’s insurance company. The involvement of so many individuals, including large, multi-jurisdictional insurance conglomerates, can significantly increase the amount of time it takes to reach a settlement. Depending on where you are in your case, you may have already received a settlement offer or have flatly rejected an offer by the opponent’s insurer. Regardless, we can help you explore your options for a negotiated settlement, including a relatively recent trend known as alternative dispute resolution, or ADR.


Mediation is a popular process in that it allows parties the opportunity to mutually negotiate the outcome of the case before a trained, neutral third-party. There are a number of benefits to the mediation process, including the fact both parties retain some modicum of control over the outcome. Typically, parties are placed in separate rooms and the mediator will transfer information and offers between to the two. If the parties prefer, they may sit across from one another and negotiate directly. The goal of the mediator is to facilitate effective and productive communication, keep the parties on track and encourage both to avoid personal attacks or wasteful tangential arguments.

If the mediation is successful, the parties will reduce their agreement to writing. The agreement must include the dollar amount the defendant agrees to pay the injured plaintiff. As well, the parties may include any other stipulations or agreements made as a result of the mediation process. These could include the time and place for expected payment, confidentiality clauses or any other promise tailored to the parties’ specific situation.

Once the agreement is reduced to writing, the attorneys for both sides will have an opportunity to review the drafts and make changes as needed. The parties will then sign the agreement, which renders it enforceable in a California court if necessary.


Arbitration is another, more formal, version of ADR that is often binding upon the parties similar to a court judgment or verdict. Arbitration takes place before a certified arbiter. The benefits of arbitration (e.g., saving time and money) are similar to those of mediation. As well, the parties are free to choose an arbiter possessing an advanced knowledge of their particular cause of action if technical knowledge is needed. This is highly advantageous over traditional civil litigation as parties are not free to choose their judge and may wind up with a judge with little experience in the subject matter at hand.

Unlike mediation, which results in a mutual settlement, the parties are bound by the arbiter’s final say, which is usually not subject to review by a judge or jury. However, parties to an arbitration proceeding may have wider latitude to negotiate the final terms of the settlement, unlike litigants in a formal civil trial.

Contact Nelson C. Barry today

There are a number of ways to resolve your personal injury dispute that do not require participation in an intimidating, lengthy trial. For more information about alternative dispute resolution, call Nelson C. Barry today.

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