How is arbitration, mediation, or a lawsuit started?

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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The first step in most controversies is to inform the other party that the controversy exists. Attorneys would refer to this as presenting a demand. In the demand, the aggrieved party tells the other party why s/he is responsible for the harm suffered. Some demand letters threaten a lawsuit. Other demand letters set forth the controversy, a proposed resolution, and an offer to submit the controversy to an arbitrator or mediator.

If informal negotiation between the parties fails to yield resolution, the aggrieved party may request that the other parties participate in either arbitration or mediation. Each party can then investigate for him/herself whether arbitration or mediation will satisfy his/her own objectives. If all parties agree, arbitration or mediation will be conducted.

The initial step in alternative dispute resolution is the selection of the arbitrator or mediator. Many professionals now offer their services as arbitrators or mediators and there are companies (such as American Arbitration Association, End Dispute, Judicial Arbitration and Mediation Service) organized specifically to assist people resolve controversies. Once the arbitrator or mediator is selected, s/he tells all parties how the matter will proceed.

A lawsuit is started by filing a complaint in a court of law. Rules of civil procedure, whether established by federal, state or local law, and strict court formalities must be followed. Even in filing the complaint, there are strict rules, such as prior presentation of a demand letter, selecting the right court, exhaustion of all potential administrative remedies, and even the type of paper used, the margins and spacing of words on the paper, and the size of type that must be used. An attorney will assist you in adhering to the proper.

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