Arbitration seems to be a largely preferable alternative to the traditional litigation system, being a more efficient and agreeable way to resolve one's small claim disputes. However, as the legal universe of small claims ranges over a wide variety of issues, the ability of arbitration to resolve them may depend on the characteristics of each specific area of dispute.
Personal injury (PI) cases are legal disputes arising when one party suffers harm from an accident or injury, for which another party may be legally responsible. In civil court proceedings, such a case may be resolved either by a formal lawsuit, or by a settlement. The former occurs when an individual files a complaint against another person, corporation, or government agency for irresponsible conduct in connection to an accident that caused harm. The latter is the more common avenue for resolving personal injury disputes, and takes place when both parties agree to forego further legal action through payment of a mutually agreed upon sum of money.
As a reminder, arbitration is a type of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR); a means to resolve a dispute without going to court. To do so, it calls upon a disinterested third party, usually an experienced attorney or dispute resolution professional. In general, utilizing arbitration is voluntary, and the final decision is binding. In a personal injury case, the arbitrator not only decides the outcome, but may also decide the amount of the award due to the plaintiff.
Below are some of the listed pros and cons of calling upon an arbitrator in a personal injury dispute:
As both parties must mutually choose for arbitration to take place, they consent to a relatively quick outcome.
Arbitrators are often vastly more experienced than a standard courtroom judge, and will be assigned to arbitrate disputes based on their specialization. In this case, personal injury disputes.
In cases such as personal injury, there are various issues that may be disputed. The parties may then choose to arbitrate only certain issues of the case. For instance, if the parties agree upon the person at fault, they may not agree on the monetary amount to be recovered. In this scenario, the arbitrator would only present a decision regarding the amount of damages owed the plaintiff.
As is usual with ADR tools, arbitration is faster, cheaper, and less of a mental hassle than relying on traditional litigation methods. Personal injury should be no exception. However, the specificity of such cases, as well as the heavy amount of evidence required, can make this efficiency disappear.
Though this aspect is also thought of as an advantage, it can also cause a resolution that insufficiently reimburses the plaintiff for the accident they experienced, and leave them without the option for appeal.
Given the complexity of personal injury cases, a significant amount of evidence is required to prove that a person or entity is responsible for the damage caused to the plaintiff. This may require the involvement of witnesses to corroborate the plaintiff's claim.
Court with an Arbitrator
Despite being comparatively more efficient than traditional litigation, arbitration of personal injury disputes seems to require many of the steps of litigation procedures. Indeed, the process includes opening statements, presentation of evidence, witness testimonies, questioning of witnesses, and closing arguments. The arbitrator will then give an expected decision date, which can take a few weeks. So essentially, arbitration of PI disputes looks very much like a traditional court hearing, minus the judge.
From these lists, it seems that this specific application of arbitration presents mixed benefits, compared with traditional forms of litigation. Why, then, would you resort to arbitration to resolve PI disputes? The application of Online Dispute Resolution to personal injury disputes can radically simplify this long process, and assign much of the minutia involved in such disputes to ODR platforms.