Q: Can you refuse arbitration?
First, it depends on whether you are dealing with court-ordered arbitration, or with arbitration in a contract of some sort.
Many contracts call for arbitration to resolve disputes. If your contract calls for it, it is mandatory if it is a well-written contract. If you went to court instead, the judge would order you back to arbitration, possibly with penalty fees (paying the other side's attorney costs, etc . . .).
If a court procedural arbitration (you filed a case in court, and then received notice about having an arbitration hearing), you should know that many courts have MANDATORY arbitration for legal issues -- you have to go to arbitration before you can go to court. If this is the case in your situation, you will go to a hearing before an arbitrator and have a "mini-trial" at a conference table. It will be much more informal that actual court. You'll be able to present evidence without all the tricky legal rules for presenting in court.
The arbitrator will look at everything, here everyone's argument, and make a ruling about how the arbitrator thinks the case should be resolved. If you don't think the arbitrator's ruling is fair, you can "appeal" it to the court and have an actual trial.
But beware! In some arbitration-oriented courts, if you refuse a fair offer by the arbitrator and don't "beat it" in court (receive better than the arbitration award), there could be some penalties.
In contract-arbitration, the arbitrator's award is usually final. The judgment is likely to be enforced by the court.
So, yes, whether contractual or court-procedural, the arbitration may be mandatory. You can retain an attorney for the arbitration.
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