Neutral evaluation is a way to resolve a legal dispute without going to trial. During neutral evaluation, a neutral third party (the evaluator):
Evaluators may be judges or senior lawyers, depending on where your case is heard.
Neutral evaluation is not legally binding by default. This means you and the other party can decide what to do with the evaluation. You may:
Any party in the dispute may request for neutral evaluation at any stage of the proceedings. You and the other party may jointly request for neutral evaluation.
A judge may also recommend that your case be referred for neutral evaluation. This is known as court dispute resolution (CDR).
Your case will automatically be referred for a brief form of neutral evaluation if it is any of the following:
You will receive a notice from the court about the details of the session. Lawyers normally represent the insurers and clients at the brief neutral evaluation session. If you have a lawyer representing you or your insurer, you do not need to attend the first session. If necessary, you may be asked to attend future sessions.
Refer to Paragraphs 37 and 38 of the State Courts Practice Directions for more information.
You can benefit from neutral evaluation if your case involves:
If you are uncertain or are open to settlement, you may wish to consider mediation instead.
Understand the main differences between mediation, neutral evaluation and going to trial.
To find a mutually acceptable settlement
To assess the merits of the case
To provide judgment
Control over the outcome
You decide if the settlement is acceptable
You can choose what to do with the evaluation
Judge makes a decision that you must follow
Information is confidential and there may be private sessions between the judge and one party
Information is confidential and there are no private sessions between the evaluator and one party
Information is public
Shorter than a trial, but it may be longer than mediation
There are several benefits of choosing neutral evaluation over trial.
Settling your dispute through neutral evaluation will generally be less costly as it takes less time.
This means you will save on legal and court hearing fees that would have been spent on preparing and going to trial.
Neutral evaluation can help you clarify or narrow down the scope of your dispute. It will also give you an estimate of your chances of success at trial.
This means you can make a better decision about whether you want to negotiate for a settlement or go to trial.
Trials are open to the public while neutral evaluation sessions are held in private.
This means the discussions between parties during a neutral evaluation session will be confidential. Information will not be given to the trial judge if you go to court.
How you file a request for neutral evaluation depends on which court hears your case.
You may request for neutral evaluation to take place at the State Courts' Court Dispute Resolution Cluster (CDRC).
Before requesting, you need to check whether the other party is willing to attend neutral evaluation. The CDRC only accepts cases where all the parties agree to neutral evaluation.
If you wish to attend neutral evaluation, file the Court Dispute Resolution (CDR)/Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Form (Form 7A, State Courts Practice Directions) via eLitigation.
If your application is accepted by the CDRC, you will receive a letter notifying you of the date, time and venue of your neutral evaluation hearing. The other party will also receive this letter.
If you fail to attend the hearing without providing valid reasons, you will be deemed to be unwilling to attempt neutral evaluation. If the case proceeds to a trial, the court may take such conduct into account when making costs orders. (1)
There are no fees for neutral evaluation at the CDRC except for District Court cases where each party needs to pay $250.
Refer to this table for the exceptions and details:
Type of case
Cost of CDRC neutral evaluation
Magistrate's Court cases
District Court cases:
All other District Court cases not mentioned above
Each party pays $250
Refer to the following guides: