Arbitration comes in two (2) forms, voluntary and forced. It is a method of resolving disputes outside of court process. Personal injury attorneys sometimes recommend voluntary arbitration as the best means to resolve a smaller claim quickly. Parties then agree to refer their case to a neutral arbitrator (or panel of arbitrators) — chosen by mutual consent — who reviews evidence, listens to attorneys and witnesses, and comes to a decision. Forced, or involuntary arbitration, on the other hand is found in most consumer contracts, such as cell phone, utility, internet services. In forced arbitration there is no agreement by the injured party to arbitrate the dispute and they are forced into a system that is neither voluntary nor fair, but unfortunately if you want to have a cell phone, or use the internet you agree to forced arbitration for any disputes that arise.
Advantages of arbitration:
- The process is quicker, and there is greater time flexibility.
- Arbitration is frequently less expensive than going through the court system, since the rules of evidence are more relaxed compared to a court case. For example, expert witnesses may send documents rather than appear in person. In addition, the arbitrator’s fee is usually split between the two disputing parties.
- Arbitration is typically a private procedure; the dispute and resolution can remain confidential. A court trial is public.
Disadvantages of arbitration:
- In court, rules of evidence may prevent some evidence from being considered by a judge or jury. However, an arbitrator might include that evidence in the arbitration proceeding. Arbitrators may be guided by “apparent fairness” rather than strict observance of the law — a more subjective approach.
- Witnesses must personally appear and testify, affidavits and reports are not admitted.
- The process can take years to resolve.
Voluntary arbitration can be a valuable tool in some situations. For expert, thoughtful legal representation for a personal injury matter, please contact our office.