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What Happens When Your Personal Injury Case is Called to Arbitration?
You were injured in a car crash, and you’re seeking to recover damages from the person at fault. The insurance company does not seem to be in much of a hurry to settle your case. No doubt you are frustrated and seek the assistance of a personal injury attorney. You are surprised to learn that you might be able to avoid going to court and worrying about a trial. Instead, you discover that your case might be referred to arbitration.
What is Arbitration?
Arbitration is an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) process by which legal matters are resolved without the need to proceed to trial. The dispute is submitted to an arbitrator—a neutral attorney or retired judge—who hears arguments, reviews evidence and renders a non-binding decision, much the same way that a judge would in court.
Personal injury cases in New Jersey are often referred to arbitration to avoid the time and expense of a trial. Generally speaking, arbitration is mandatory for all cases where the damages appear to be less than $20,000. However, many judges will also refer matters in excess of that amount hoping for a conclusion of claims without the necessity of a trial.
In case you want to review the exact language of the law, you might want to take a look at NJSA 2A:23A-20, which offers some insight into personal injury lawsuits and arbitration.
Truth be told, many enjoy the fact that arbitration is less formal and complex than court proceedings. Litigants find it easier to participate in this type of setting, rather than worrying about how a jury will consider their case.
An arbitration hearing is scheduled after the discovery phase of the case. This means that both sides have submitted written answers to interrogatories. At the very least, the plaintiff’s deposition will also occur before the arbitration.
What Happens at the Arbitration?
Your attorney will notify you of the date of your arbitration hearing. Before the hearing, each party shall exchange a statement of the issues. Attorneys for both parties will be present.
The arbitrator conducts the hearing while each party presents its case. Since the process is less formal, the hearing is typically held in a conference room, as opposed to a courtroom. After the hearing, the arbitrator will render a non-binding decision based on who he/she thinks is at fault and grant a written award.
For example, in a personal injury case involving a car accident, an arbitrator will decide whether you recover money damages from the other driver’s insurance company, and if so, how much.
If you are not unhappy with the arbitrator’s award, you have 30 days to reject it and file a notice with the court called a “demand for a trial de novo” by which you request a formal trial.
The arbitrator’s fee is agreed upon by both parties and generally split between them.
If you are involved in a personal injury case, Beninato & Matrafajlo Attorneys at Law can explain to you how the arbitration process works for your case, your options, and the benefits of the process. Our office is not paid until your legal matter concludes – and only if we are able to secure money for you. Contact us to discuss your situation and set up an appointment.