Arbitration v. Mediation, what do these words mean?

I recently had someone ask me what the difference is between arbitration and mediation.  The answer is rather quite simple, mediation is a settlement process and arbitration is a judicial process.

For instance, in mediation, there is no judge, or judge-like figure.  Rather, there is a mediator, a third party, usually chosen by the parties to a lawsuit, who mediates the dispute.  The parties are not required to settle.  But, if a good mediator is chosen, the likelihood of a case settling is exponentially increased.  There are many benefits of mediation including the fact that when you chose to settle your case, you get to have a hand in the outcome; whereas if your case goes to trial, you are subject to the whims of the judge and jury.

On the other hand, in arbitration, there is a judge-like figure, i.e., the arbitrator, who decides the case.  For example, in Superior Court in Arizona, for most cases with a monetary value under $50,000.00, the court requires the parties to go to mandatory arbitration.  An arbitrator, who is usually an experienced attorney, is appointed by the court to decide the case.  A benefit of arbitration is that a lawsuit is decided much quicker than waiting to go to trial.  Though, a downside to arbitration is that there is still the appeal process so the case is not always over when the arbitrator makes the decision.

So, there are major differences between mediation and arbitration.  Hopefully this knowledge is just educational and you won’t end up with a lawsuit that needs to be mediated or arbitrated. But, if you do, our firm is always here to assist and provide you with peace of mind.

Written by Attorney Lori Brown.

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