Step 3 of a Lawsuit: Alternative Dispute Resolution
At our office, we don’t want your lawsuit to be overwhelming, which is why we like to break it down into accessible steps. If you missed our previous posts, you can learn about the first two steps of a lawsuit here. The third step, which we’ll talk about today is alternative dispute resolution.
In this step, the Court will initiate alternative dispute resolution (i.e., ADR), which could take place in the form of a case evaluation, facilitation, or a settlement conference; sometimes all three. Below is a brief overview of these processes. Notably, a large majority of lawsuits are settled at this stage of litigation. Remember, no one can settle your case without your consent, and the attorney at our office will certainly consult with you on any significant settlement offers made by a defendant.
The court will assign your case a case evaluation date. Case evaluation is a process where three court-appointed attorneys hear oral arguments and read written briefs from each party. The panel will then decide on a proposed value they believe could settle the case. It is not a settlement offer, but merely the panel’s recommendation. If all parties accept the panel’s recommendation, the case is settled for that value. If any party rejects, the case continues onward. According to court rules, clients are prohibited from attending case evaluation, but the attorney will consult you once it’s done. You will then have 28 days following the panel’s proposal to decide whether you would like to accept or reject.
In the facilitation stage of ADR, each party will submit written briefs to a single attorney who acts as the facilitator. This facilitator will attempt to settle the case by negotiating with each side. Normally, each party sits in a separate room with their attorneys present and the facilitator will alternate between the rooms to try to bring the parties to a settlement. For this form of ADR, clients must be present.
The court will assign your case a settlement conference date and you must attend. The settlement conference will take place inside the courtroom where the judge will try to settle the case by speaking with both parties. Usually, the settlement conference will occur 42 days after the case evaluation.
If your case is not settled in alternative dispute resolution, it will move onto the next step, trial. Check out our next post to learn more about this.