Arbitration is designed to be a quicker, informal and less expensive way to resolve disputes. It usually applies to cases where the injured party’s damages are $100,000.00 or less because this is the maximum that can be awarded by the arbitrator. In this setting the rules of evidence are relaxed, matters can be heard and a decision is rendered faster than through the traditional court system.
Each side will be provided with a list of potential arbitrators that have been randomly selected through the court roster. The potential arbitrators have been deemed qualified to serve through their experience and credentials. These individuals are licensed attorneys and former judges that have gone through a certification process. Upon receipt of the list, each side gets to strike (or remove from the selection) particular arbitrators until one is eventually appointed by the court.
The parties, along with the arbitrator, reach a mutually agreed upon date for the hearing. The discovery process prior to the actual hearing may include depositions, interrogatories, and/or a defense medical examination, all of which are discussed at length elsewhere. The hearing date is scheduled to occur typically within a couple months, as opposed to over a year on the regular court calendar.
As the date for the arbitration approaches, you will have a scheduled meeting with your attorney to help prepare and answer any questions. At this appointment, you and your attorney will go over your testimony by running through questions you will likely be asked. In addition, each side submits written materials and evidence to the arbitrator prior to the hearing. These materials usually include a copy of specific medical records, medical billings, sworn statements, and a legal brief prepared by your attorney.
The arbitration hearing will typically be conducted in either our office or the arbitrator’s office. In the room will be the arbitrator, you and your attorney, the defendant and the defense attorney. All parties will be seated around the conference table. Each side will have an opportunity to call witnesses and the other side will then have an opportunity to cross-examine. Often witnesses will provide testimony in the form of declarations, or written statements, without actually appearing at the hearing. Other times, a doctor, family member, or co-worker for example, may provide live testimony either in person or over the phone.
Once the arbitrator has heard all the evidence, he or she will render a decision. This can sometimes take anywhere from a few days to several weeks. Following receipt of the decision, each party is given an opportunity to appeal the arbitrator’s award. The appeal must be filed within 20 days or the decision is rendered final and binding. If no one appeals, the award is paid within a short period of time and the matter is concluded. Costs for arbitration are very small, typically under $1000, and the majority of cases that go this route will resolve here. If either party does file a timely appeal, the case is then placed back on the court docket and will proceed toward trial