Alternative Dispute Resolution and 2010 Trolley Accident

The News Herald reported this week on the on-going civil dispute following a local trolley accident. It was December 2010 when a Bay Town Trolley slammed into a law office located at 11th Street and McKenzie Avenue. The driver, Jennifer Cantu, who no longer works with the trolley service, paid a fine the following month and was cited for careless driving. Judge Michael Overstreet recently ordered release of onboard video footage from the incident in the ongoing civil dispute.

In the footage, Cantu is seen falling from her seat just before impact. No other passengers were onboard at the time. Although no injuries occurred, a civil lawsuit is pending between the business owner and the trolley company. The trolley case is pending in civil court but is currently scheduled for mediation.

Our Panama City accident attorney appreciates that community members may not be familiar with mediation. Most residents understand what it means to file a lawsuit that ends in settlement or goes to trial. However, few realize that there are different ways by which disputes can be adjudicated, often before resorting to a regular lawsuit.

Mediation is just one alternative to trial. Alternative dispute resolution ("ADR") can be elective, contractual, or court-mandated. In some cases, it can be a cost-saving option for all parties involved with particular savings in the discovery arena. Forms of ADR include:

  • Negotiation - Most civil claims do settle, often through negotiation. An experienced attorney can be your advocate in negotiation efforts, and having legal representation can substantially raise settlement values. Negotiation can be accomplished through both written and oral discussions. While your lawyer can help you decide what values are fair, accepting a negotiated settlement is always the client's decision.
  • Mediation - When independent negotiation fails, mediation can be a great alternative. In mediation, a skilled neutral party will attempt to help those involved reach a mutual agreement. The mediator is not empowered to make a decision but instead helps the parties come to an agreement. Mediation can be especially helpful in cases where the parties have an on-going relationship, such as a business case involving a landlord and commercial tenant.
  • Arbitration - Arbitration involves a hearing, much like a trial, in which a neutral arbitrator or panel hears the dispute and hands down a decision. Some arbitration is binding, like a trial, while other arbitrations are non-binding, in which case the result is more akin to a recommendation. The rules of arbitration can vary greatly from a more informal setting to a hearing much more similar to a trial. In some cases, an existing contract or lease can require that disputes be handled in arbitration rather than a courtroom.

ADR can be a great alternative to the complex and lengthy courtroom process. Our Panama City civil lawyer is experienced in all forms of dispute resolution. ADR can apply in personal injury matters, premises liability claims, and other civil disputes. When you schedule your free consultation with our Panama City attorney, we will discuss whether ADR is appropriate for your case.

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