The term “alternative dispute resolution” refers to any form of dispute resolution besides trial by judge or jury. Generally, when a party files a lawsuit to decide a dispute, whether it’s a malpractice claim or auto accident, a trial to determine liability (fault) and damages is the ultimate form of resolution. The trial process, however, is not always mandated and sometimes other or ‘alternative’ forms of dispute resolution are advisable or mandated.
Alternative Dispute Resolution in Colorado
In Colorado, as elsewhere, the alternative forms of dispute resolution are varied. The most common forms of alternative dispute resolution in Colorado are mediation, arbitration or private settlement conferences. Mediation is either ‘binding’ or ‘non-binding.’ Binding means that the parties are bound by the result, as in a formal judgment. Non-binding means the parties are only bound if they reach an agreement and choose to be bound by the result.
Arbitration as a Solution
Arbitration is generally a more formal means of dispute resolution than mediation, and is a binding form of dispute resolution, sometimes with rights to a trial, as a form of appeal, sometimes not. There are rules which govern arbitration, much like trial, but relaxed on evidentiary matters and there is never a jury. Arbitration can be governed by a single person or a panel.
Settlement conferences are generally a form of mediation, and always ‘non-binding.’ If conducted outside a courthouse, they are generally ‘mediated’ by a privately retained/paid person, either a lawyer or a judge who makes a practice of it. If conducted inside a courthouse, then usually a judge (other than the trial judge) or magistrate conducts the conference. Settlement conferences conducted by a judge or magistrate (or magistrate-judge in Federal court) are oftentimes more formal as the parties are expected to dress as in court, and location or decorum is a matter of the personal discretion of the judge or magistrate conducting the conference.
Experience and Knowledge You Need
The lawyers at Avery Law Firm, with nearly thirty years of experience in all forms of dispute resolution, will guide you in the selection of alternative forms of resolution, and attempt to find a form of resolution that will maximize your recovery and minimize your costs and stress. Most often, that will be a private settlement conference, the cost of which is advance by the law firm on behalf of the client, where the settlement judge is selected based upon experience.