Car Accident Arbitration
After a car accident, your options may feel limited. Part of what makes a collision so traumatic is the loss of control over your physical (and sometimes mental) well-being. After bruises fade and broken bones heal, though, many car accident victims are still stuck with options they feel are unfair. For example, if your car insurance company offers you a settlement amount to cover the damages you sustained in your wreck, an unexpectedly low figure can feel disheartening. Thankfully, there are options to hold the insurance company responsible for what you feel is owed to you.
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The car accident arbitration process exists to allow drivers to dispute car insurance matters without escalating to the courtroom. Considered a last-ditch approach before a lawsuit is filed, arbitration allows both the driver and the insurance company to present their case before a neutral, third-party referee known as an arbitrator. Though less formal than a traditional court proceeding, arbitration is every bit as legally valid as decisions made by a judge or jury. Generally speaking, arbitration is legally binding and there are no options for appealing the decision made by the arbitrator.
Those living in a no-fault insurance state are required to seek arbitration when they need to resolve an accident settlement dispute. Others may opt into arbitration to save money and time by avoiding a lawsuit. Arbitration tends to be scheduled far more quickly than your average court case, meaning drivers have a quicker path to resolution. The entire process generally takes no more than 80 days from the time someone requests arbitration to the point where they receive their awarded settlement.
Preparing for Arbitration
Both parties involved in the claim must agree on an arbitrator. Often a single individual with a history as a judge or attorney, arbitrators can also be a group or an organization. Though either party can nominate an arbitrator, everyone must come to an agreement on the final choice.
Once an arbitrator has been chosen, a date is selected as a deadline for all documentation to be exchanged. You’ll also choose a date for the actual arbitration hearing. During the time before the hearing, it’s important to review all the documents you can relating to your claim. Collect any evidence you can to weaken your opponent’s case and be ready to share it during the arbitration hearing.
What to Expect
While arbitration hearings lack the same formalities as court hearings, they require many of the same tasks. On the day of the arbitration hearing, you’ll need to come prepared to make an opening statement, call witnesses and cross-examine them, and present evidence to support your claim. You’ll need a strategy in mind to handle opposition from the other party, and you should have a closing statement prepared.
All parties will be in the room when arbitration occurs. Typically lasting only a couple of hours, the hearing should be long enough for you to explain your argument, the damages you sustained and the settlement you’d like. Be sure to have evidence backing up every claim you make, as the arbitrator will likely ask for proof of your statements.
The arbitrator may take a week or two to determine the outcome of the hearing. They will issue an award statement, including a brief explanation of why they made their choice. The result of the arbitration hearing is legally binding, and there is no option for appealing the decision if you’re unhappy with the result.
Get the Help You Need
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the arbitration process, especially if you have no legal background. Some people opt to work with a car accident attorney to ensure the best possible outcome for their arbitration hearing. Accident attorneys can help those involved in car accidents understand if arbitration is the best option for their claim.
Arbitration isn’t right for everyone. Because it is legally binding and the results can’t be appealed, arbitration can leave some car accident victims hung out to dry. In some cases, arbitration requires time off work that a victim can’t afford. Others dislike the lack of jury deciding their fate. With matters in the hands of a single arbitrator, it’s their sole decision to make.
If you believe arbitration might be right for your situation, Lawsuit Info Center can help connect you with an experienced attorney in your area. They can help you understand the arbitration process and whether or not it is indeed worth pursuing your claim.
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Frequently Asked Questions:
How does the car accident arbitration process work?
After being involved in a car accident and negotiating with your insurance company, you finally receive the settlement sum offer and find it to be significantly lower than expected. You solidly trust your claim is worth more. So you renegotiate with insurance and see if your settlement offer becomes higher. In some cases, these claims cannot come to agreement. When the point of no settlement understanding can be achieved, you have the option to settle the claim in court or through arbitration. In other words, arbitration is the alternative option to resolving the dispute outside of court.
- Both individual parties in the claim must concur on using a mediator known as an arbitrator. It’s possible the arbitrator is one person or even a group of individuals.
- Both parties must agree upon the arbitrator.
- The arbitrator then hears statements and testimonies from both sides, analyses evidence, and makes a decision on the claim.
- Once the decision is made it is final and neither party is allowed to appeal.
What does it mean when a car accident lawsuit goes to arbitration?
Arbitration is simply settling the claim outside of court. This could mean that neither party was satisfied with the insurance negotiations. It could also mean both parties were looking to spare time and money in comparison to taking the case to court. Both parties have chosen to take the alternative route and agree upon an arbitrator to settle their disputes. So how does the arbitrator come to a conclusion? There are various points of key evidence they must gather in order to make a final judgment call including:
- Details about the accident
- Was anyone injured?
- Who was found at-fault?
- How much property damage?
- How much compensation will you recover from your injures (if any)?
- Were there witnesses to the accident?
The arbitration process is organized much like a preliminary, however the techniques are done in a more casual manner and a less formal setting. There’s an opening statement, testimonies, evidence reviews, cross-examinations, witness statements, and closing arguments. Once all is said and done, the arbitrator deliberates and decides within a few days.
What happens after a car accident arbitration hearing?
Once the arbitration process is complete and a decision is made, the settlement is final. You may not appeal or ignore the ruling. All paperwork and documents are filed and sent to you and your attorney with the decision. You will also receive a notice clarifying the rights you may have once arbitration is complete and how you may move forward.
What should I expect in a car accident arbitration hearing?
Many people decide to take the alternative route and go through the arbitration process rather than taking the claim to court. You can expect it to cost you significantly less in money and time. You can also expect it to be similar in structure to a trial, however much less formal.
- Filing for arbitration can take roughly anywhere between 1-15 days. This step happens once you’ve decided you are unsatisfied with the insurance settlement negotiations and will take the alternate route of arbitration.
- Nominating/selecting a third party arbitrator can be a bit of a lengthy process due to the fact that both parties MUST agree on the arbitrator. The arbitrator must also have absolutely no interest or benefit in either party and remain completely unbiased. This process can take around 30 days.
- Preparing for arbitration and exchanging evidence includes gathering photos, witnesses, testimonies, and solid proof to explain and support your claim. This preparation phase will typically take around 30 days.
- The hearing process takes one single day and includes opening statements, testimonies, evidence, witness statements, cross examination and closing statements.
- The arbitrator’s decision once made is final and there will be no opportunity to appeal. This typically takes about 1-2 weeks for the decision to be made.
How long does a car accident arbitration hearing take?
Car accident arbitration is typically used when the two parties insurance companies cannot agree on the evidence provided from the investigation. An auto accident arbitration hearing is considerably quicker to resolve than taking the claim to court. The process may seem lengthy but keep in mind that it’s much quicker than trial. A car accident arbitration hearing can take around 3 months until the arbitrator has made the final decision but may also resolve sooner than that. The arbitration process goes through several stages, which include filing for arbitration, selecting the arbitrator, exchanging evidence, the hearing process and the arbitrator’s decision. Each stage roughly takes about 15-30 days to complete. Once the decision is final, no appeals can be made.
What is auto arbitration?
If you believe that the settlement offer that your insurance company has decided upon, you have the option to dispute through a process called arbitration. Auto arbitration is a less formal, out-of-court legal proceeding that allows you and your insurance company to settle a dispute with the other party involved in the accident. There is a neutral third party involved in the arbitration process called the arbitrator who will ultimately make the final decision on the settlement amount. This can either work in your favor or you may still be unhappy with the amount, however, once the arbitrator has decided on an amount the decision is final and neither party can appeal.
How is arbitration used to resolve car insurance policy disputes?
When you become involved in an auto accident, you generally file an insurance claim for the damages acquired. However, your insurance provider may not necessarily authorize your request. Insurance companies will research and investigate the accident themselves in order to determine the amount they are required to pay under your current auto protection plan. It is possible that your insurance provider may oppose the claim or offer some lowball settlement. If this is the case and you do not agree with the offer your insurance company has made, you can agree to settle this dispute outside out court in an arbitration hearing.
How does arbitration work in a word vs. word car accident claim?
What does it mean when you hear word vs. word when referring to a car accident claim? This means there was no witness besides the individuals involved in the accident and their insurance carriers must take the word of their insured policyholder and support their claim, which might result in the claim being denied. Oftentimes, in a word vs. word car accident claim, the investigation is found to be incomplete or unreliable and the claim may be rejected. The arbitrator will determine the at-fault party once testimonies are provided. Decisions are final without the possibility to overturn in court.
Do I Need an Attorney for an Auto Arbitration?
Getting into a car accident is never an easy, stress-free situation. Even if there was minor damage and no injuries you might still need to file a claim with an insurance company. So, you file the claim and the insurance company finally responds with its final offer for settlement. You find that the offer from the insurance carrier is much less than you either hoped for or anticipated. What can you do now? You can appeal the offer outside of court using a process known as arbitration. Do you need an attorney for an auto arbitration?
The Timeline for Arbitration
The timeline for arbitration is much quicker than that of a trial, but it’s still a good idea to have an attorney assist you throughout the process. The typical timeline for a car accident arbitration case is as follows:
- Filing and initiating the case from 1-15 days
- Selection of the arbitrator from 16-45 days
- Information preparation and exchange from 46-75 days
- The arbitration hearing on day 76
- The award is issued between days 77-85
If you are unhappy with the settlement offer from the insurance company tell them you want to go to arbitration. You cannot force them to do so, but the minute you mention you have an attorney by your side and threaten you could file a lawsuit they will likely fold and go to arbitration with you.
Having an attorney represent you at arbitration for a car accident case will help you prepare the required documents, prepare how to answer questions, and help you determine the proper amount of compensation you should request.
Can You Go to Court After an Arbitration?
Arbitration is a process used most often in resolving disputes between people fighting for compensation from an entity, such as a business or an insurance company. When two parties head for arbitration there will be an arbiter chosen. Most are former judges or highly experienced lawyers who do not have any type of conflict of interest with either of the two parties. When you go to arbitration it usually means that you will accept whatever decision is made by the arbiter. But, what if you don’t agree? Can you go to court after arbitration?
No Appeal Available
The point of arbitration, as opposed to going to court, is to reach a decision that is binding. This means that there will be no appeal available if you disagree with the ruling from the arbiter. That’s the major risk you take when agreeing to go to arbitration. Just because there’s no channel for an appeal on the ruling simply because you don’t agree with it doesn’t mean that the door is shut completely.
Gross Misconduct Appeal
There is the possibility of filing an appeal in court regarding the result of your arbitration case and it stems from gross misconduct. You cannot appeal because you disagree with the ruling, but you can appeal if you believe there was gross misconduct or negligence on the part of the arbiter assigned to the case. For example, did the arbiter take a bribe from your opponent? Did the arbiter fail to disclose a conflict of interest involving your opponent?
It is possible for both parties to agree prior to entering the arbitration hearing, in writing, that an appeal could be allowed. It all depends on how the documents are written before entering into arbitration.
How Long Does it take to Receive Money After an Auto Accident Arbitration?
If you’ve been injured in a car accident and aren’t happy with the settlement you’ve been offered you can take the other party or their insurance company to arbitration. You run the risk of losing the arbitration case and having to accept the initial settlement offer. Or, you could win the hearing and be awarded a higher amount of compensation from the insurance company. Let’s take a look at how long it takes to receive your money after an auto accident arbitration case.
The Arbitration Timeline
The timeline for an arbitration case is much shorter than the timeline for a trial. You can expect an arbitration process to last no longer than 85 days from start to finish. The shortest amount of time you can expect an arbitration case to last is 77 days.
The hearing for your arbitration case will occur on day 76. The ruling and award could be issued by the arbiter on day 77 or on the final day of the process, day 85. The arbiter has to issue a statement about the award and how he or she reached their decision. This statement cannot come past the 85th day of the case.
Once the award has been issued by the arbiter it can take anywhere from two to six weeks to receive the money. During this time your lawyer and the lawyer for the insurance company (or whomever is your opponent) will work on the settlement.
What Happens After Losing a Car Accident Arbitration?
Being injured in a car accident, or even simply being involved and suffering damage to your vehicle, is a stressful situation. You will go through a lot of paperwork and even fights with insurance companies. If you take your car accident case to arbitration and wind up losing, what happens? What can you do if you lose your arbitration case? Let’s take a look at your options should you ever lose an arbitration case for a car accident.
Arbitration is Binding
Unless you and the other party put something in writing prior to entering into the arbitration process it is binding. This means that you won’t have an ability to appeal the decision made by the arbiter in your case unless the arbiter acted egregiously or negligently and you have the evidence to prove it.
The ruling from the arbiter can go in many different directions. For starters, the arbiter could rule in your opponent’s favor. This ruling could reduce the amount of compensation from your opponent to an amount less than originally offered. Or, the ruling could simply force your opponent to pay you the compensation they originally offered. You are the loser in this instance because you did not get the increase you sought.
The bottom line here is that there isn’t much more you can do for yourself if you should lose a car accident arbitration case, so be sure it is the right option for you at the time instead of litigation.
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