Though arbitration seems like a desirable alternative to traditional litigation processes, it appears to receive some pushback when it comes to more "specialized" areas of law like personal injury (PI). If you read our previous article, you will be familiar with the reasons why arbitration is said to be less suitable than traditional litigation. Some of the arguments given by arbitration's detractors are the following:
The main disadvantage given is the forced nature of arbitration. Generally, arbitration is agreed on paper by both parties, meaning that they must defer to whatever outcome is reached by the arbitrator, without being able to appeal the case results. In the case of personal injury disputes, a binding decision could go badly, even for the winning party. If the arbitrator rules in the plaintiff's favor, there is a chance that they might not be sufficiently compensated for the harm they experienced.
Another alleged downside of PI arbitration is the excessive amount of evidence, documentation, and witnesses required to make your case. In this special area of law, proving that you were suffered injury or an accident is crucial, as is proving that the defendant is responsible for these damages. Because of this, you are required to present a number of pieces of hard evidence, as well as testimonies from witnesses to the incident.
The specialized nature of PI cases makes it seem like these cases are simply too complex to be handled via arbitration, and that eventually, a lawyer must be hired to help explain the minutiae of the case to their clients.
No Day in Court
The final argument against arbitration of PI claims alleges that arbitration of such cases deprives you of your day in court, and all the leverage that comes with it. Because court juries are painted as emotional, you stand a higher chance of walking away from your PI case with a very large verdict, provided you can sway the jury. However, arbitrators, being more logical, are more likely to rule based on evidence and the law, which would preclude you from huge awards. This suggests that you can more easily receive a judgment in your favor by resorting to a courtroom.
Despite reservations about employing arbitration to resolve more specialized disputes, the flexibility offered by Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) platforms could very well dispel any doubts on the effectiveness of arbitration, even for personal injury cases. Here are potential ways in which ODR can simplify the process, and prove some of the above criticisms to be unfounded.
- Binding: This issue implies that even a successful plaintiff might not be awarded as much money as they are entitled to given their injury. Here, it is important to be reminded of the outcomes sought by arbitrators. The main goal of these neutral third-parties is to find the fairest and most efficient resolution to the dispute possible. Shorting a plaintiff out of the full compensation due to them would contradict those goals. Therefore, if bringing a PI matter to an online arbitrator, you should be confident that they will make sure you are fully compensated for your injury. Additionally, ODR platforms will enforce this compensation.
- Requirements: Though PI cases may cause headaches in courtrooms due to interminable amounts of evidence, documentation, and witnesses, ODR can make it all extremely simple.
- First of all, the easy circulation of documentation allows you to upload documents from your phone, making the process much more efficient. This efficiency can also be applied to witnesses, since most ODR platforms use video chat systems for hearings and discussions between parties. And because of the time flexibility of ODR, your arbitrator can contact the witnesses you have presented separately, so that their testimony can corroborate your claim without requiring your presence.
- Second, arbitration operates on the principle of "relaxed rules of evidence," meaning that proof that might be inadmissible in court is fully acceptable to arbitrators. This means that you have much more leeway in the evidence you can present to an arbitrator, especially through ODR platforms. This could also pose a problem, as it presents the possibility that an arbitrator would make a verdict based on less-than-sound evidence. Here, the expertise of the arbitrator should be trusted, as well as their judgment of what constitutes appropriate evidence.
- Complexity: This argument presumes that PI cases are too complicated to be resolved without the intervention of a lawyer, which sounds like an argument that a lawyer would make. This argument seems to ignore the fact that arbitrators connected to ODR platforms are mostly retired judges or specialized lawyers. Because they are independent contractors with the platform, they have no motivation to be partial to one party or the other, as long as the dispute is resolved. Their expertise in the field of personal injury should be sufficient, without another lawyer entering the dispute. Furthermore, the increasing availability of legal information online can quickly "de-complexify" such specialized cases. This is a reminder that ODR works toward increasing your participation in the legal process. You should have the information to help you resolve your legal matters at your disposal. If there are complex details involved, than your arbitrator is your best resource.
- No day in court: This argument assumes that a day in court is preferable. It is true that presenting your case in front of a full jury may be beneficial to you. However, isn't the whole point for you to have the simplest, fairest, and most cost-effective process you can? In a courtroom, the so-called "leverage" that you may gain from presenting your case to a jury is heavily outweighed by the cost, time, and exertion you will have to put into the case. A day in court just doesn't seem worth your time. Furthermore, this argument states that an "emotional" jury is preferable to a "logical" arbitrator. Hopefully, you would prefer your case to be decided based on its evidence, and on the law, rather than on emotions. If you are appealing to the law for a resolution of your PI case, wouldn't you expect the law to be considered? ODR platforms heavily rely on the expertise and fairness of the arbitrators they call upon. But ODR platforms also seek the quickest, fairest, and most efficient resolution to your small claims case. A day in court has rarely achieved that.
The simplification of the legal process offered by arbitration, especially through ODR platforms, is undeniable. Even more specialized small claims disputes (i.e. personal injury) can be resolved online with ease, efficiency, and expertise. Online Dispute Resolution platforms have an unparalleled/innovative ability to improve the legal system.If you are interested in exploring ODR for your personal injury suit, please send us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org, or file your claim here.