What is involved with civil arbitration
Mandatory arbitration applies to cases where either (1) the damages sought are under $100,000.00 or (2) the damages sought are in excess of $100,000.00, but in order to resolve the case more quickly and with less expense you are willing to accept $100,000.00 or less. When my office files a lawsuit that is going to be placed in Civil Arbitration, this fact is disclosed in the initial Complaint that is filed with the Court.
Cases in Civil Arbitration are tried before an arbitrator. Arbitrators are randomly selected from a list maintained by the court. The list is comprised of practicing lawyers and retired judges.
Cases in Civil Arbitration have streamlined procedures that limit the activity before the arbitration hearing. Typically your involvement is limited to three activities:
- Attending a deposition. This is an opportunity for the opposing lawyer to ask you oral questions and get oral responses. A court reporter transcribes both the questions and answers. I will be present to observe, preserve certain objections, and ask follow-up questions if necessary. I cannot answer questions for you. Depositions typically last 1-2 hours, but sometimes take all day. Before the deposition, I will speak with you on the telephone or meet with you to prepare you for this procedure.
- Attending a medical examination. Medical examinations are not automatically allowed in Mandatory Arbitration. Sometimes the defendants make a request to the arbitrator that you attend an examination with a doctor of their choosing. I typically oppose such examinations, unless the defense has presented sufficient justification for the examination. Most examinations take 1-2 hours.
- Attending the arbitration hearing. The arbitration hearing is an opportunity to present evidence related to your motor vehicle collision, your injuries, your treatment, your damages, and the effects on your life. Typically, I obtain sworn statements from your doctors regarding your medical treatment, but sometimes doctors testify on the telephone or live. First, I ask you questions and give you an opportunity to explain how you were hurt and how it affected your life. Next, the defense lawyer will cross-examine you. Finally, the arbitrator can ask you questions. You are also allowed to bring other witnesses or submit other sworn statements. Sometimes it is helpful to have a friend or relative testify about your injuries or someone from your employer testify regarding affects on work. Most arbitrations take 3-8 hours. You should plan on attending the entire arbitration.
The arbitrator issues a ruling within 14 days. Either party can appeal the decision of the arbitrator to a jury trial. However, there is a severe potential penalty associated with doing so. If the person appealing does not improve the result, then they owe the other party’s attorneys fees and costs incurred after the arbitration. As a result, my clients have NEVER appealed an arbitration result. Some insurance companies appeal on a routine basis, but this leaves them open to potentially greater liability and opens up the possibility that increased costs and attorneys fees are paid by the insurance company.