Alternatives to Going to Court Basics
You are in a dispute. But that does not necessarily mean that you have to go to a court.
Going to court is not fun. Going to court is risky, expensive, stressful, and time consuming. Sometimes going to court is necessary, but often it can be avoided.
Some common alternatives to going to court:
- Neutral evaluation
These techniques are sometimes called “Alternative Dispute Resolution” or “ADR”.
Alternative Dispute Resolution, often called “ADR” for short, refers to the different processes available to resolve disputes outside of court. Often ADR is more affordable, less stressful, and quicker than going to a traditional trial.
Advantages of Avoiding Court
Settling a dispute without Court has many advantages:
- Flexible: The process can be designed to suit the dispute
- Effective: Voluntary agreements may be more likely to be complied with than orders imposed by the Court
- Faster: Reaching an agreement can resolve the problem more quickly
- Cheaper: Court is expensive. Even if you do not use a lawyer, going to court will take a huge amount of time. You may also have to pay some large expenses. You may need to hire an expert to prove your case. Avoiding court could mean avoiding a huge bill
- Secret: The settlement process can usually be kept confidential. Court on the other hand is usually open to the public and the media
- Less mental and emotional toll: Going to Court can be mentally and emotionally difficult, especially when it is unfamiliar
- No finding or admission of liability: Making an offer to settle or agreeing to a settlement does not mean that you are admitting liability in the lawsuit. It simply means that you would like to resolve the lawsuit before it goes to trial
- Under your control: You can choose how you resolve the dispute. You can also choose who you use to assist in resolving the dispute
- Open to compromise: Court can be “winner take all”. Negotiation and mediation can allow for give and take on both sides
- Easier to remain friends: It is often easier to leave mediation or negotiation as friends than it is to be friendly after a court battle
- Avoid “Costs” awards: Under the Supreme Court Rules, the party who is unsuccessful in a lawsuit is generally ordered to pay the other party’s costs. Although costs only cover a portion of the total expenses that someone must pay to take a case to court or defend a case, they can still be very significant (See Costs)
Lawyers Can Help
Getting advice from a lawyer about your case can help you figure out what would be a reasonable settlement of your claim. A lawyer may also be able to help you negotiate a settlement. If you can reach an agreement to settle the case, make sure that your settlement is documented so that it ends the dispute. A lawyer can give you advice on how to properly document a settlement so that the settlement agreement cannot be later questioned and reopened. For more information on hiring a lawyer, see Get Help.
Deadlines for Starting Court Proceedings
While considering alternatives to going to Court, you must keep in mind deadlines for starting court proceedings. These are also known as limitation periods. Most court cases can only be brought within a certain time period. For more information on limitation periods, see Limitation Periods.
If you are unsure about when your deadline to start a Court process ends, it is important to seek legal advice as quickly as possible. A limitation period could expire even while you are in the process of trying to negotiate an out of court settlement.
One way to protect yourself is to file a court action just to make sure you do not run out of time. You do not necessarily have to move forward with the Court process, but you will be able to negotiate without worry that you will lose your ability to go to Court if negotiation fails.