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Alternative Dispute Resolution Services

If you are involved in a conflict, you may initially try to solve the problem directly with the other party. If you are unsuccessful, you may hire an attorney and take legal action. However, there are alternatives to court action, which may be less costly and time consuming and allow greater control over the outcome. Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) offers a variety of methods to resolve problems through settlement. In ADR, the focus is on achieving a mutually satisfactory solution.

Why request ADR services from the Commission?
ADR has several advantages:

  • Impartiality: CADRS staff serve as an independent, neutral third party in the process
  • Convenience: ADR can be used whenever a dispute arises
  • Confidentiality: Third party neutrals are bound by confidentiality requirements
  • Efficiency: ADR typically is less costly and time consuming than traditional means of resolving a conflict
  • Choice: The parties design and retain control over the process and the outcome
  • Cost: There are no fees for CADRS services or facilities when ADR activities take place at FMC offices

When using the Commission's ADR services, parties may resolve their disputes in a quicker, less costly manner. These processes are less formal, less adversarial, and can lead to creative, practical solutions. Also, parties control the outcome and avoid the unpredictability of an adjudicative decision. Parties are generally more satisfied with a resolution through mediation and other forms of assisted negotiation, and there is little to lose. If ADR does not result in a resolution, the parties still may litigate their dispute.

All communication with CADRS staff during ADR processes is confidential, unless otherwise agreed. The ADR processes are not part of the Commission’s decisional processes. CADRS does not conduct investigations and confidential information disclosed during ADR will not be provided to other Commission departments for enforcement or other purposes. The goal of CADRS is to assist parties to resolve disputes in a mutually satisfactory fashion.

Types of ADR Services Offered

    Ombuds Assistance: The most frequent ADR service requested is ombuds assistance. It is often the fastest way to solve a problem. CADRS professional staff help resolve disputes from a neutral, independent viewpoint. We will review the information that you provide, gather additional information, and may recommend solutions or discuss with the parties what other solutions may be useful to resolve the problem without further action. The parties then will determine whether to implement those resolutions. The process is participant-driven. CADRS does not force any party to take action. Ombuds assistance can be useful for resolving cargo shipment issues, household goods issues, or cruise passenger issues.

    Mediation: Complex cases and those seeking a larger resolution and more in-depth discussion of issues and problems may be suited for meditation. Mediation is a process in which an impartial neutral (the mediator) assists disputants in finding a mutually acceptable solution to their conflict. It is both voluntary and confidential. Mediation services may be provided before or after commencement of litigation or formal proceedings at the Commission. Mediation has a number of advantages over litigation. Mediation typically is less costly and less time consuming. The parties can eliminate the uncertainty of an adjudicative decision and control the outcome of the litigation by reaching an outcome agreed to by all parties.

    Arbitration: CADRS also offers arbitration services for those that wish a more traditional legal format without going to court. In an arbitration, the parties present their positions at a hearing before an arbitrator, whose role is similar to a judge in a court of law. The arbitration hearing is held in private. After presentation of the evidence and argument of the parties, the arbitrator renders a decision. The decision may be binding (meaning that the parties cannot later sue in court) or nonbinding, depending on the prior agreement of the parties.

To discuss the Commission's ADR services, contact the Director of CADRS, at 202-523-5807 or toll free (within the U.S.) at 1-866-448-9586.