Are You Required to Engage in Arbitration After an Auto Accident Injury?

Arbitration is not something that is required in any auto accident case. It is however a nice alternative to formal litigation when the two parties just cannot agree on a settlement amount. It is a very common form of what is referred to as alternative dispute resolution. Mediation is the other common form of alternative dispute resolution. Arbitration is more formal than mediation, but less formal than trial. Its processes are similar to that of an actual trial. In Utah, state statute provides that a plaintiff’s attorney can request arbitration during any litigation process where the amount at issue is less than $50,000. The time frame that this must be done is either within the initial complaint or within two weeks after the defendant files an answer. The rationale for this law is that cases of relatively small value should be handled relatively quicker than large cases with more at stake. Defense counsel could potentially block arbitration by opposing the plaintiff’s motion, but this is not typical.

In effect, arbitration functions much like trial. Its decision is binding unless appealed. The way is works is that both parties would agree on and then pay an arbitrator to hear their case. An arbitrator is typically a former judge or experienced attorney. You will want an arbitrator that is intimately familiar with the type of case at issue. There are many arbitrators in Utah with extensive experience in car crash cases.

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The procedure of arbitration begins with opening statements from each side. Followed by examination and cross-examination of witnesses by each side. Both sides can introduce evidence, and finally, both sides will be allowed to make closing arguments. Sometimes the arbitrator may even ask questions of counsel or of one of the witnesses. After the arbitration is over, the arbitrator will respond with an order usually within a week or so. This order has the force of the law and will be followed unless either party chooses to appeal the award by motioning for a de novo review at trial. That basically means that the parties would go to trial and pretend that the arbitration never happened. That seems silly though, right? It is. The intention of arbitration is to save time and resources, when they are appealed, extra time and resources are wasted. For that reason, there is a penalty for appealing an arbitration award. The moving party is required to get either a 30% decrease or increase of the award at trial or that party will be required to pay the attorney fees of the nonmoving party up to $6,000.

An experienced personal injury attorney may recommend arbitration in a case where a reasonable settlement amount just cannot be reached. When the parties are so far apart and both feel that they are right, arbitration or trial may be inevitable. A good car crash attorney knows that the more it costs to litigate your claim, the less the victim will get. Sometimes arbitration gets a bad rap because there are not many big winners or losers. Arbitrators get a reputation of just splitting an amount down the middle. The middle, however, is better than nothing. There is some concern that arbitrators favor defendants because they want to be rehired. That is a legitimate concern, and it is one that you must weigh out with the help of your attorney.

This article is offered only for general information and educational purposes.  It is not offered as and does not constitute legal advice or legal opinion.  You should not act or rely on any information contained in this article without first seeking the advice of an attorney.