What is Neutral Evaluation?
Neutral Evaluation is a way of resolving a dispute without going for a trial in Court. This process is provided by the State Courts Centre for Dispute Resolution. During Neutral Evaluation, the parties, with their respective lawyers, present their respective cases and the key evidence to the evaluator, who is a Judge. The evaluator will provide his best estimate of the parties' likelihood of success at trial. The parties can use this evaluation to settle their case or as a starting point to negotiate a settlement.
You may read more about Neutral Evaluation in this Law Gazette article.
Apart from Neutral Evaluation, there are other ways to resolve your dispute without going for a trial in Court. For more information, please refer to Overview on Alternative Dispute Resolution.
How is Neutral Evaluation different from Mediation?
A mediator assists the parties in negotiating a mutually acceptable settlement to their dispute. Mediation focuses on finding solutions that meet the concerns of the parties, whereas the focus of a Neutral Evaluation is the assessment of the merits of the case.
A mediator may meet the parties privately to facilitate a settlement. However, private sessions are generally not used in Neutral Evaluation so that no private information that could be used in making the evaluation flows from a party to the evaluator.
Is Neutral Evaluation binding on the parties?
You and the other party are the ones who decide whether the evaluation should be binding. The default position is that it would be non-binding. When the parties choose to go through a binding Neutral Evaluation, they have to agree to record a consent judgment or terms of settlement at the end of the Neutral Evaluation to give effect to the evaluation.
What are the benefits of using Neutral Evaluation?
How are cases referred for Neutral Evaluation?
A Judge hearing a summons for direction or any pre-trial conference of your case may recommend that your case be referred for Neutral Evaluation. You and the other party may also jointly request a Neutral Evaluation session to be scheduled.
What types of cases are likely to be recommended for Neutral Evaluation?
The following types of cases may particularly benefit from Neutral Evaluation:
- Cases that involve substantial documentary evidence, e.g. construction-related matters;
- Cases that involve conflicting expert evidence where it might be costly and time consuming for expert witnesses to testify at length at trial, e.g. medical negligence cases;
- Cases where the parties want a neutral person with expert knowledge of the subject matter to assess the merits of their case; and
- Cases where all the parties believe that they have a strong case and are therefore unwilling to explore settlement. A neutral assessment of the strengths of each case may be useful to break the deadlock.
Where the parties are uncertain about whether Neutral Evaluation is suitable, mediation would usually be a better Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) option at the start, if all the parties are open to exploring settlement.
Motor Accident and Personal Injury Claims
If you have a personal injury or a "non-injury motor accident claim" (NIMA for short), your case will be automatically referred for a very brief form of Neutral Evaluation. You will receive a notice from the Court about the details of the session. Lawyers normally represent the relevant insurers and clients at the brief neutral evaluation session. A Judge in the State Courts Centre for Dispute Resolution will make an assessment of the likely outcome at trial. You need not attend the first session if you have a lawyer representing you or your insurer. Where necessary, you may be directed to be present in subsequent sessions. You are advised to consult a lawyer for legal advice on such a matter.
Lawyers are required to refer to the eMotor Accident Guide (2nd edition), a publication by the State Courts of Singapore in the brief Neutral Evaluation sessions. The eMAG provides the general public and others involved in motor accident claims, e.g. insurers, vehicle repair workshops and lawyers, with useful information so that they will have a better opportunity to resolve their accident claim cases amicably and avoid incurring unnecessary costs and expenses for litigation.
The State Courts together with the Singapore Academy of Law published a reference book entitled Guidelines for the Assessment of General Damages in Personal Injury Cases. This guide informs parties of the estimated quantum of damages that can be expected from the wide range of injuries suffered, and is useful for parties to make informed decision in settling their cases involving personal injury. This guide is also used by lawyers at the brief Neutral Evaluation sessions for personal injury claims. Click here for an extract from the book on neck injuries.