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How can ADR benefit doctors facing a malpractice claim?

Though trials make headlines, most medical malpractice cases end before they get before a jury. Many claims are quite dubious and are quickly dismissed; other times, the parties reach a settlement to avoid the risks of going to court.

Another alternative gives the parties the chance to resolve the dispute, but with less formality and cost than traditional court, plus more control over the outcome. Alternative dispute resolution usually means one of two methods: arbitration and mediation.

These two forms of ADR have some similarities. In both cases, a neutral third party oversees the attempt to resolve the dispute, and the result can be binding, though mediation is more likely to be non-binding.

Perhaps the greatest difference between arbitration and mediation is in their formality. Arbitration uses one or several arbitrators, who act similarly to judges and issue a written opinion based on majority vote. If there are multiple arbitrators, usually each side selects one, and the two pick a third. The parties then present their cases to the panel.

Mediation is less like a trial and more like a negotiation. A mediator is not a judge or decision-maker. Instead, he or she is there to facilitate the discussion, in an attempt to get the parties to reach a settlement, if possible.

Many businesses prefer to take their disputes to ADR whenever possible. This may also work for physicians or hospitals that want to avoid the costs and uncertainties of court, even when they feel they have a strong case.

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