5 Alternatives to Court Costs

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Court costs are an important factor when pondering to sue or not to sue. The bare court costs are often low but delays and lawyer costs to bring a legal action to court could ruin you. In order to try to keep direct and indirect court costs down, many jurisdictions require that parties consider “alternative dispute resolution”. These are also sometimes known as dispute prevention and resolution processes by the legal community (DPR). Even if these alternatives aren’t imposed by your jurisdiction, they can save you time and money. You must also add to these alternatives technologies that can help you keep court costs under control. Here are the five common alternatives for you to ponder.

1) Negotiation

Negotiation may be carried out directly between the two parties, given that they are open to discussion among themselves. Should this not be the case, negotiation can then be carried out by a third party, regardless of whether or not he is a legal professional but must be unbiased and impartial. Furthermore, certain Web platforms, allow parties to negotiate among themselves remotely. These tools help you settle disputes, they facilitate the transfer of offers and counter-offers and generate official documents.

It is essential to prepare the negotiation process effectively by clearly establishing one’s purposes and objectives. Negotiation also helps closely identify the objectives of the opposing party in the event where the dispute would end up in a lawsuit. This dispute resolution does not end in the case of a lawsuit, but continues throughout the process.

Practical tip: it is important to remain calm as much as possible and maintain an ongoing channel of communication until the conflict is fully resolved.

Take away: this is what often happens during a dispute: people will meet or call each other a few times. If there are bitter arguments or insults thrown around, they probably won’t keep an ongoing open channel to negotiate. Online dispute resolution (ODR) tools can keep that channel open, giving you a chance to at least communicate bids. When emotions die down, parties will often re-evaluate their propositions.

2) Conciliation

When the parties fail to communicate properly, they may call upon the service of a conciliator. Once again, this person must be unbiased and impartial, whether or not he is a legal professional. The person shall not intervene into the heart of the conflict but will only act as a discussion facilitator and his principal role would be to serve as a bridge between the parties involved.

Practical tip: you are the only person who knows your conflict best and at times, there may be complexities which only you would understand. In this case, conciliation may serve as an effective mode of communication.

3) Mediation

Mediation is a more proactive conciliation to some extent, where the mediator may in this case, interfere into the heart of the conflict by offering possible solutions and new avenues which had not been previously contemplated by the parties. There are accredited mediators in Quebec as well. The law only generally requires their involvement for family matters. Mediation has to be done in a collaborative spirit and must be non-confrontational. Once again, the mediator undertakes to be unbiased and impartial.

Research studies have demonstrated that solutions adopted through mediation between the parties are more acknowledged than those that arise from a judgment. This is mainly due to the fact that the involved parties are stakeholders in the solutions, contrary to a Court judgment whose sanctions are imposed upon them.

Practical tip: mediation is an effective process when it becomes important to maintain a good relationship or even when it comes to finding a creative solution where both parties come away having gained something.

4) Arbitration

Usually, arbitration is set out by law or in a contract, commonly known as arbitration agreement. In the event of deciding upon this dispute resolution method, the parties give up their right for a trial for this same dispute. A decision issued through arbitration is irrevocable. In Quebec, the decision can also be filed with the tribunal (also called “homologation”), which makes it enforceable, like a judgment. This is faster than a trial since the parties may agree with the arbitrator on a predetermined schedule. The arbitrator is generally a litigation professional in the matter at stake, such as an engineer or a doctor, which makes arbitration an ideal private dispute resolution method for the labour and business fields. One or three arbitrators render their judgment, which is known as an arbitral award.

Practical tip: this method can be provided for by a contract, which reduces expenses and delays during a dispute. The advantage is that this method ensures you that a decision will be rendered, (contrary to mediation which may lead to a dead end).

5) Low-cost technological alternatives to court costs

There are various technological solutions available today that help minimize additional expenses. They allow you to do a part of the work yourself to keep your money for the critical time where you will really need a lawyer.

For instance, web apps can offer a do-it-yourself, turnkey service that can cut by 10 the costs of pre-trial legal work. If you consider that hiring a lawyer can cost you at least $15 000 for the entire judicial process, using technological tools can be your only option, economically speaking.

Furthermore, this technology prevents you from many unnecessary journeys or commutes. They take care of the delivery by registered mail and filing certain procedures at Court. If you decide to do part of the work yourself, they give you additional credibility. In other words, your threats have more weight because they come from a third party.

In addition, these technological tools keep you away from direct physical confrontations. In many cases this is an important factor that prevents settlement from occurring.

Practical tip: try online platforms: they could cut your court costs by 10 if you compare them to the average amount requested by lawyers.