Alternative dispute resolution is a procedure used to hopefully resolve a dispute without a trial. There are two primary methods of dispute resolution, mediation and arbitration.
If the parties are not able to reach an agreement between themselves, mediation is sometimes used in an attempt to resolve the case. Mediation is a process of “shuttle negotiation.” The mediator, usually a judge or an experienced personal injury attorney, works back and forth between the parties trying to bridge the gap between them. A mediation is voluntary. The parties do not have to settle at a mediation.
Arbitration is used to help courts deal with their heavy caseloads. In Oregon, it is mandatory in all cases filed in circuit court in claims involving $50,000 or less. In Washington, arbitration is also mandatory in cases filed in superior court, but the cut off amount involved may be either $50,000 or $100,000, depending on the County in which the action is filed. In Clark County arbitration is mandatory in claims filed in superior court involving $100,000 or less.
In a mandatory arbitration, an arbitrator decides the issues of liability and damages. A party may appeal from a mandatory arbitration award, and then the case proceeds to trial as if the arbitration did not take place. But if the appealing party does not does not do better than the arbitration award at trial, the party may be responsible for the other side’s attorney fees after the arbitration.