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.
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. To find out what your car accident claim could be worth and to get in touch with a lawyer in your area, simply fill out this form and one of our team members will be in touch.
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.