CIVIL MEDIATION is a process where an impartial third party - mediator - helps two or more people, or groups of people, resolve a dispute.
We list some examples of typical disputes that are suitable for mediation below, but almost any dispute can be resolved with a good mediator and open-minded participants.
The mediator will always seek a mutually acceptable settlement. This ensures the parties remain in control of the outcome and can protect their interests at all times.
This differs from court, where the outcome is decided by a judge based on arguments and evidence typically presented by the parties' lawyers.
The UK courts are heavily promoting mediation to resolve disputes without court action, describing litigation as a "last resort". This is because mediation offer many advantages, some of which are noted here.
The Civil Procedure Rules outline how you should resolve a civil dispute and how mediation should be used to avoid the "last resort" of making a claim in court. We have summarised the steps to resolving a dispute here.
We have also provided an illustration of the key steps in a typical mediation below.
When should you mediate?
"Litigation should be a last resort" (Civil Procedure Rules)
Before you make a claim
If you are considering making a court claim against another party (or taking someone to the small claims court), you should consider mediation.
The Ministry of Justice's Pre-Action Protocol section of the Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) states that "parties should consider whether negotiation or some other form of ADR might enable them to settle their dispute without commencing proceedings".
Before your claim proceedings begin
Even after you have issued a claim (e.g. a Money Claim Online or MCOL), you should continue to consider mediation.
Parties to a claim receive a Directions Questionnaire asking them to confirm if they will participate in mediation.
The CPR states: "Parties should continue to consider the possibility of reaching a settlement at all times, including after proceedings have been started."
During your claim proceedings
Even after legal proceedings have started and a notice of hearing has been issued, court directions invariably invite parties to participate in mediation.
Courts can impose penalties if mediation is deemed to have been unreasonably refused.
As the CPR states:"Litigation should be a last resort"
Advantages of Mediation
There are many benefits of mediation versus court action
We have highlighted some of the most important below
Mediation is much cheaper than court action
The costs are known and fixed at the outset
Settlement is only reached when both parties agree to it
Neither party can have an outcome
imposed on them
The existence of the mediation and its contents are confidential
This preserves privacy, commercially sensitive information and full legal rights
Mediation is usually resolved in one day
and can be scheduled quickly
Court action can take several months and is scheduled by the court
Will strive to put our clients at ease and support them through the process
Court can seem intimidating, highly formal and unfamiliar to many people
Mediation takes place at a time and place agreed by both parties
Some mediation takes place over the phone or online for added convenience
Which disputes are suitable for mediation?
Most civil disputes are suitable for mediation.
Here are some typical examples.
Faulty or unsatisfactory goods or services
These might include disputes between consumers and retailers, utilities, builders and other service providers.
Someone owes you money and will not pay you back
This might be if you believe someone owes you money and won't pay you back, regardless of the reason.
Neighbour and boundary disputes
These might include boundary disputes, property damage claims, noise of other nuisance issues.
Disputes between landlords and tenants
These might include disputes regarding rent payments, maintenance, deposits or property damage.
Claim against warranty or insurance
This might be if you have claimed on a warranty or insurance policy and are unsatisfied with the outcome.
Inheritance and probate issues
These might include disagreements over the validity, interpretation or execution of a will.