An arbitrator is a person who is neutral, that is, a person who does not have a stake in the dispute. A neutral party does not take the side of any of the people who have the dispute. Often the arbitrator is an individual who has specific knowledge about the technical issues involved in the dispute. Unless you and the other parties have otherwise agreed in writing, the arbitrator makes a decision for you about how the dispute will be resolved. One common type of arbitration is "binding arbitration". In this case, the arbitrator's decision is binding on you and the other parties. "Binding" means that you and the other parties must live with and follow the agreement unless you have agreed beforehand that the arbitrator's decision is not final.
|A mediator||An arbitrator|
|Helps the parties discuss their conflict with each other.||Listens to the arguments of each party about why s/he is right, but does not help the parties discuss their conflict with each other.|
Does not make a decision for the parties. A mediator helps the parties understand each other's side of the conflict.
If you and the other party(ies) want, a mediator helps you to work out a solution to the conflict.
Does not tell you his/her opinion about who is right or wrong, or about who will win and who will lose if a court is asked to decide the conflict.
|Makes a decision for the parties about who wins and who loses based upon information and arguments presented by each side.|
|In a mediation||In an arbitration|
|If the parties reach an agreement, they may choose to write it down or leave it unwritten. An agreement is between the parties and it is their responsibility to follow it.||If the arbitrator makes a decision about the conflict, the parties must follow the decision unless they have agreed beforehand that the decision is not final.|
|A court will not enforce a private mediation or an arbitrator's decision unless you or one of the other parties file a lawsuit asking the court to enforce it. The court will only enforce a signed mediation agreement.|