A lawyer may not be necessary when you fight a speeding ticket or head to small claims court. If you feel more comfortable with an attorney, it’s your choice to hire one.
However, if you file a more complicated case with complex injuries, you should hire an attorney, or at least take advantage of a free consultation with a lawyer. Oftentimes, cases are settled before ever going to trial.
Mediation is a legal process to settle disputes through a neutral third party (mediator). The mediator attempts to solve the dispute by listening, participating, and ultimately offering a fair, objective solution. Mediation will not take place in a court room.
The mediator’s solution is not enforceable. It’s possible that you and the opposing party can’t agree on a settlement offer. At that time you and your lawyer reconvene to discuss the next best steps. Typically, if the case cannot be settled during mediation, the next step is a trial. Sometimes, there can be multiple mediation attempts to settle a case before going to trial. In some instances, mediation is required before taking a case to trial.
Arbitration is similar to the court process, but is less formal. It will not take place in a courtroom. Both parties will provide testimonies, are questioned under oath, and cross examined–much like in a trial.
The arbitrator decides if damages will be awarded or not. His or her decision is final and enforceable.