You may have read or heard about the concept of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), and its influence on court-based litigation. The White Plains accident lawyers at Worby Vecchio Edelman LLP have frequently engaged in the ADR process, and are well versed in all facets of this system. The ADR methods most often utilized in personal injury litigation are arbitration and mediation. This month we focus on arbitration, and how it might – or might not – apply to your case. In the months to come we will turn to mediation, a related, yet distinct form of ADR.
In personal injury litigation, arbitration is most often an entirely voluntary proceeding, whereby a case is resolved outside of court, by a neutral arbitrator, instead of by a judge or jury. There is most often a single arbitrator, and all parties must agree to the selection. Alternatively, there can be a panel of, for instance, three arbitrators, whereby the parties must agree to all three members of the panel. Sometimes each party will select one arbitrator, and those two arbitrators will select a third member of the panel. Either way, the decision of the arbitrator(s) is binding and final on all participating parties, and except in extremely limited circumstances, there is no right of appeal. Of course, the arbitrators are paid, with the parties splitting the cost. And yes, since everything is negotiable, there can be a pre-arranged agreement for one side to incur the entire cost itself.
The arbitration itself is something of a “mini-trial”, whereby each side has the opportunity to present its evidence, and cross examine adversarial witnesses. The arbitration is not held in a courthouse, but usually in an office, either the arbitrator’s office; that of one side’s attorneys; or the company which supplies the arbitrator. Either way, the process is at least relatively streamlined, with no time required for jury selection, and a truncated presentation of evidence. The rules of evidence are much more relaxed, with the parties generally permitted to present evidence in an arbitration which would be inadmissible in a jury trial. A case which might take a week or more to try in court can be completed in half a day, or even less.
The parties can also agree in advance to the evidence which will be admitted. If the parties agree, expert evidence can be presented in the form of a report or sworn affidavit, instead of by live testimony, a method which results in an enormous cost saving. The arbitration can proceed with parameters for damages, often referred to as a “high-low” agreement, whereby the parties may agree to a low number of, for example, $25,000, and a high number of $100,000. Under that example, the plaintiff is guaranteed to recover no less than $25,000, and the defendant or its insurance carrier is protected from paying a number in excess of $100,000.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Arbitration
Like anything else, there are advantages and disadvantages to proceeding in an arbitration. Most importantly, a plaintiff sacrifices the right to trial by jury. This can be a disadvantage, as a jury might be expected to award a higher verdict than an arbitrator. However, in cases with a limited insurance policy held by a judgment-proof defendant, an award in excess of that policy might be inconsequential. The advantage to an arbitration might be in a case with a limited insurance policy where for whatever reason we are unable to agree on a number with the insurance company which will settle the case. Under that circumstance, we can proceed in an expedited matter to resolve the case at minimal expense.
Resolving a Case in Arbitration During COVID-19
The arbitration proceeding has its place in our practice. While there are occasions where we would never recommend proceeding in arbitration, there are also occasions where it is the most efficient manner to resolve a case. Resolving a case in arbitration could be an especially good choice now, given the COVID-19 pandemic. Trials are frequently delayed, even more so today, with New York Courts still not operating on a full, pre-COVID schedule.
Contact Our White Plains Accident Lawyers
Call the White Plains accident lawyers at Worby Vecchio Edelman LLP if you or someone you know was involved in any type of accident. Communication is the key to a successful attorney-client relationship. We’ll answer all of your questions, and make sure you understand all aspects of your case. We offer a free, no obligation consultation, and since we work on contingency, we only charge a fee if we recover money on your case.