Should I choose arbitration or go to court for a car accident claim?


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Question:

Should I choose arbitration or go to court for a car accident claim?

Answer:

It is common for insurance companies to settle car accident claims by arbitration but the common answer to all legal questions like this is:  it depends.  An arbitration can be binding or non-binding.  Non-binding arbitration may be beneficial to give a party a sense of what a judge might decide in a court so it can be a good way to judge whether a party should settle or not.  Binding arbitration however is not only binding, it typically cannot be appealed, while a court decision can typically be appealed.

Arbitration is less formal than a trial in court and is usually less expensive and a faster route to a resolution.  The arbitration process includes informal meetings of the parties and their attorneys and the decisions are made by an arbitrator who is a neutral party.  An arbitrator’s role is similar to that of a judge. His job is to make a fair decision based on the evidence presented and is not to help the parties come to an agreement.

While arbitration can save parties time and money, it may not be the answer for an injured party.  A court proceeding may result in a bigger award for the plaintiff if the plaintiff is someone for whom a jury will have sympathy.  A sympathetic jury may compensate an injured party more than an arbitrator based on the emotion of the situation rather than the law and facts of the case. Similarly, a person who might not get sympathy from a jury may be better off with a more objective arbitrator.

Getting Legal Help

Deciding whether to go to arbitration or court can be the biggest decision for your case. It is important to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney before making that decision because the strategy of whether to agree to arbitration and whether it should be binding can make or break your case and the decision cannot be reversed once made.

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