In the case of a legal dispute where the parties involved do not want to go to court, mediation offers an out-of-court alternative. On the other hand, litigation involves two parties enforcing or defending their legal rights through court. Mediation is done with the assistance of a mediator. Who is a mediator? The mediator is someone chosen by the parties and is sometimes a lawyer. However, the mediator doesn’t have to be a lawyer and can also be experts from other professions. The background of the chosen mediator will most likely depend on the type of dispute. In a dispute concerning the construction of a building, an engineer could be chosen to act as a mediator because of their specialised knowledge of construction sites.
All mediators are chosen from a panel of accredited mediators appointed by the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services. They would have also had mediation training, meaning they’re not random professional people from the public. The mediation clerk will help the parties decide which mediator is best for their particular dispute. As mentioned, the type of dispute will play a major role in the type of mediator appointed or suggested.
The job of the mediator is to facilitate discussions between the parties who have a dispute. Among other things the mediator assists them in identifying and solving issues.
What’s the point of mediation?
The point of mediation is to settle disputes peacefully. It has few technicalities and promotes reconciliation between two opposing parties who may have had a misunderstanding or simply a bad experience. Litigation is more time-consuming and usually leaves someone at a disadvantage. Litigation is often sort out in hospital disputes in circumstances where a patient feels they’ve been neglected or mistreated by a doctor. Instead, mediation can offer both the parties a beneficial outcome and help avoid an ugly court case. An unhappy patient may approach the hospital where they were treated and come to an agreement where the hospital can help the patient find better treatment or assist them in one of their immediate needs. The patient would then not sue the hospital, meaning the hospital wouldn’t lose money or their reputation.
What are the advantages of mediation?
The mediation process has several advantages. The most obvious one is that the parties involved in a dispute don’t have to go to court and can settle the issues much more efficiently and inexpensively. However, some people may decide to ignore mediation for litigation, which is far more expensive and prolonged. Mediation offers the added benefit of providing a “win-win” situation for both parties through negotiation and compromise.
So who is right and who is wrong?
A mediator does not declare who is right and who is wrong in a dispute nor do they give the parties a final solution by judging them. It is the responsibility of the opposing parties to find their own solution with the help of the mediator.
The mediator will draw from his/her professional experience in the particular matter and use that to advise the parties involved in a dispute. That’s why a mediator is chosen with experience in the field over which the parties are fighting about. If the parties have come to an agreement the mediator will help draft a settlement agreement, which is enforceable in law as a contract.
Justice.gov.za. Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, Civil Law. [online] Available at: http://www.justice.gov.za/mediation/mediation/ [Accessed 18/05/2016].
This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)