Arbitration is an alternative dispute resolution process that aims to provide a more efficient and streamlined way to resolve legal conflicts compared to traditional courtroom litigation. A top difference between arbitration and trial is the use of witnesses. While witness testimony is allowed in arbitration, it is not necessarily required or utilized in every case.

The ability to present witness evidence and conduct cross-examination during an arbitration hearing provides a valuable opportunity for parties to have their key facts and arguments directly substantiated. Just as in a trial setting, witnesses with first-hand knowledge or subject matter expertise can help strengthen a party’s position through oral testimony under oath.

But arbitration rules typically grant the arbitrator significant discretion in how proceedings are conducted. The arbitrator has the authority to determine whether witness testimony is actually needed, or if the documentary evidence and legal briefs submitted by the parties are sufficient to render a decision.

In less complex arbitrations involving relatively straightforward contractual, employment, or business disputes, the arbitrator may decide that witness examination is unnecessary if the key facts are undisputed. This flexibility allows for a more streamlined process when oral testimony would be duplicative or unhelpful to resolving the central legal issues.

Conversely, for high-stakes, complex commercial cases where critical facts are actively contested, witness testimony from subject matter experts, damages experts, fact witnesses, and other relevant individuals may be extremely valuable. Their live testimony can have a significant impact on the arbitrator’s assessment of evidence and ultimate determination of liability or damages.

The decision to utilize witnesses comes down to factors like the complexity of the dispute, the nature of the evidence, and the discretion of the arbitrator. While witness testimony isn’t automatically required, permitting witnesses allows key individuals to be cross-examined and have their credibility weighed by the decision-maker.

While more truncated than courtroom litigation, the ability to submit witness evidence in arbitration provides an important due process protection for parties involved in the alternative dispute resolution process. Witness participation can enhance confidence in the integrity and accuracy of arbitration outcomes.