Disputes between the various parties involved in a construction project are not uncommon. What is unacceptable about disputes is the time and money they cost. That’s why mediation is often the go-to route to resolve disputes.
Mediation not only allows for a quicker and often less expensive resolution than going to court, it can also help maintain the relationships between businesses that will eventually work together on another project.
How mediation process works
The first step is to find a qualified mediator. The ability to mediate is the first necessary quality, followed closely by an intimate knowledge of the construction industry. Armed with those two qualities, a mediator can cut to the chase during sometimes heated discussions.
The mediator will ask the parties to submit their positions in writing, usually one week to 10 days before the first meeting. The mediator will use these papers – usually no longer than 10 pages – to familiarize herself with the specifics of the dispute.
The first meeting will take place in a neutral location. The mediator will usually ask for anyone who has specific knowledge of the issue to attend – contractor, subcontractor, foreman, accountant, purchaser, attorneys, and so on. Essential to this process is for each side to have one person who can sign off on an agreement during the negotiations.
Each side will have a pre-determined amount of time to present their argument, usually presented by the attorney and bolstered by the experts that accompany the group. Questions can be asked by the mediator but each side usually holds questions until after the presentations.
A discussion follows the presentations, which then leads to negotiations. If the discussion is civil, the sides remain in the conference room. If the negotiation becomes rancorous, the sides will go to separate rooms and the mediator will shuttle between them with the various offers.
This process can last for one day or continue into more days if necessary. However, the mediator will call off negotiations entirely if it appears no agreement can be reached. If that occurs, each side can take the issue to court.
Mediation is less expensive and time-consuming than pursuing the issue in the courts. Because both sides give input into the dispute, they can find a common solution.