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What is mediation and what is arbitration?


A: Mediation is a term used to describe settlement discussions and negotiation with an impartial 3rd party- usually a retired Judge of the Supreme Court of the State of New York. A 'mediator' attempts to bridge the gap between the parties in an informal setting, such as an office, to get the parties to agree on a settlement and resolve their differences. Settlement discussions with a mediator are not binding unless the parties reach a settlement. That means that if negotiations break down, or are not resolved, the parties are not bound by the terms discussed during settlement negotiations. Arbitration is slightly different. It's more formal, with documents and evidence in the form of testimony given, again in an office type setting. An arbitration may be heard with just one arbitrator or a panel of arbitrators. A decision rendered by an arbitrator is generally binding on the parties. There are limited exceptions where it is not. For the most part, the parties must agree to abide by an arbitrator's ruling. In some personal injury or malpractice cases, either side may propose mediation or arbitration at any time prior to trial. If agreeable to both sides, there is a potential for resolving the case through these procedures. Sometimes, one or both sides become unreasonable in their settlement position, and we have no choice but to proceed to trial. That's what we do- we prepare each case for trial.