Q
In a Virginia car accident case, what is the difference between mediation and arbitration?

A
Mediation and arbitration have some similarities and some differences.  In both cases, the parties agree to an alternative to trying their case (mediation and arbitration are frequently referred to as alternative dsipute resolution or ADR).  If the case is a Virginia persoanl injury case such as a car accident case, then the insurance company representing the defendant will also need to agree to the mediation or arbitration.

Mediation

Mediation is a process where the two parties agree to have a third party come in and help them try to settle the case.  Usually a retired judge or an experienced attorney is hired.  The parties usually meet in one room and each discusses their position of the case with the other side.  The two parties then go into separate rooms and the mediator meets individually with each party, the injured party and then the insurance company and thier attorney.  The mediator helps point out the risk that each party has if the case goes before a jury and pushes both sides to come to an agreement on settlement.  The process is not binding on either party and each party can leave at any point.

Arbitration

There are two major types of arbitration, binding and nonbinding.  In both types the parties hire an arbitrator that they can both agree on.  The arbitrator is usually a retired judge or an attorney with signficant experience in the subject matter of the pending case.  Both sides have and opportunity to submit documents and make arguemetns that support their position on the injuries or the liability of the case.  The arbitrator makes a decision on the value of the case.  If the arbitration was binding, then the parties have agreed to settle for that amount.  If it was not binding, then the parties are not bound by that decision.

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