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Litigation vs. Mediation: What’s the Difference?

Legal disputes can often escalate to where one or both parties feel the only solution is to head to court. But while there are times when going to trial is advantageous, particularly in criminal cases, it’s usually best for plaintiffs and defendants to settle their legal matter outside the courtroom.

In Florida, parties to a lawsuit have several dispute resolution options, including litigation and mediation. As trials are generally lengthy and expensive undertakings, it’s almost always better for parties to avoid them and instead settle on a reasonable compromise everyone can live with.

What is Mediation?

Mediation in Florida is a much more informal approach to dispute resolution. The state defines it as a process “whereby a neutral third person called a mediator acts to encourage and facilitate the resolution of a dispute between two or more parties.”

Perhaps the most significant difference between mediation and litigation is that, in mediation, no person, jury, or judge renders a decision. Rather, the parties attempt to reach their own resolution so to avoid a trial.

Mediation is considered a vital component of Florida’s court system, and courts in all 20 judicial circuits routinely require or order mediation. Key features of mediation include:

  • Confidentiality. Unlike trials and hearings heard in public courtrooms, mediation is private and, with few exceptions, confidential.
  • Impartiality. Mediators are required by law to remain impartial at all times and must not indicate a preference for one party over the other.
  • Flexible solutions. Mediation allows for much more creativity in finding solutions. As long as both parties agree, you can reach an agreement specific to individual needs and wants. In many cases, both sides “win” in mediation.
  • Time and cost savings. A formal trial process can involve countless documents, multiple attorneys, and weeks or months of appearances. As mediation is an informal discussion between the parties, it’s typically a faster process that costs you less in both dollars and stress.

During the mediation, the mediator typically meets with all involved parties, including their mediation attorneys, to discuss the issues. They might also meet with each party privately, a process known as caucusing. Mediations end in one of three ways:

  1. The parties reach a mutually satisfying agreement.
  2. The mediator declares an impasse.
  3. The mediator continues the session to another day.

When to Pursue Litigation

Court battles can be complex and stressful, and extend for months or years before reaching a final resolution. Florida’s court systems, like most in the country, prefer to reduce civil litigation caseloads, including the number of cases that result in what are often expensive trial processes.

Fortunately, relatively few lawsuits ever go to trial, but it might be your only path forward if:

  • The parties can’t come to an agreement.
  • One or both parties want to be able to appeal a binding decision.
  • There are legal principles to be resolved.

Which Option Is Right for You?

There is no one best way to resolve a civil legal matter. The law firm of Cobb Cole can help you decide whether to choose mediation or litigation and educate you on the many factors you’ll need to consider, including:

  • Evidence produced by both parties.
  • The time and expense involved.
  • The strength of your legal claim.

Our firm is home to several Florida court-certified civil mediators skilled at negotiating good faith attempts to resolve legal differences and reach settlements that satisfy both parties.

From corporate and business law to civil litigation and family law, the attorneys at Cobb Cole provide legal dispute resolution services that save our clients time and money. Contact us today to learn more about the litigation and mediation processes and how we can help you bring your legal matter to a favorable conclusion.

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