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 unless both parties agree that it will be legally binding.
You and the other party can decide what to do with the evaluation. You may:
Any party in the dispute may request neutral evaluation at any stage of the proceedings. You and the other party may jointly request neutral evaluation.
A judge may also recommend that your case be referred for neutral evaluation.
Where the parties are represented by counsel, early neutral evaluation (ENE) will be used for the following claims:
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 Paragraph 39 of the State Courts Practice Directions 2021 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 mediator and one party
Information is confidential and there are no private sessions between the evaluator and one party
Information is generally 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 for and going to trial.
This means you can make a better decision about whether you want to negotiate for a settlement or go to trial.
Trials are generally 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 proceed to trial.
How you request neutral evaluation depends on which court hears your case.
You may request neutral evaluation by the State Courts' Court Dispute Resolution Cluster (CDRC).
If you wish to attend neutral evaluation, file the Court Dispute Resolution (CDR)/Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Form (Form 2, Appendix A1, State Courts Practice Directions 2021) via "Request for CDR" on eLitigation. The form should confirm that all parties consent to neutral evaluation and contain the parties' available dates in the next two months to attend the neutral evaluation.
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 by 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
If you wish to attend neutral evaluation, file the ADR Offer (Form 4) via eLitigation and serve a copy on the other party.
If the other party is willing to attempt neutral evaluation, they will file a Response to ADR Offer (Form 5) and serve a copy on you.
The court may then give directions for your case, such as to set a timeline for neutral evaluation to complete, or to adjourn pending court proceedings. You will need to arrange for neutral evaluation with a relevant organisation.
If the other party fails to respond to the ADR Offer, they will be deemed to be unwilling to attempt neutral evaluation without providing any reasons. If the case proceeds to a trial, the court may take such conduct into account when making costs orders. (2)
The Supreme Court does not offer neutral evaluation services. If the court approves your request, you need to arrange for neutral evaluation with an organisation of your choice.
Some options include the:
The information here is for general guidance as the courts do not provide legal advice. If you need further help, you may want to get independent legal advice.Find out more
Refer to the following guides: