What is Mandatory Arbitration?

What is Arbitration and How Does it Work?

Arbitration is a method for resolving a case rather than a traditional jury trial. Sometimes, it’s mandatory that you file your case for arbitration. Other times, it’s voluntary.

Here’s how the process works once you’ve filed your case:

  1. A court or the parties involved selects the arbitrator from a vetted pool of attorneys.
  2. Next, the hearing is scheduled. Most often, this hearing will happen within a few months.
  3. During the hearing, the arbitrator hears evidence from you and any of your witnesses, as well as the defense attorney’s witnesses. The attorneys will make arguments to the arbitrator about what they feel is fair compensation for your claim.
  4. The arbitrator will then decide your case.
  5. You will receive your settlement, usually within 2-10 days of the hearing.

What is Mandatory Arbitration?

Most counties in the State of Washington have what’s known as the Mandatory Arbitration Rule (“MAR”). MAR requires that cases valued at $100,000 or less must be placed into arbitration. These cases will then follow the arbitration process explained above.

Mandatory Arbitration exists to keep courtroom calendars open for larger cases. It also reduces the time, effort, and expenses involved when a case goes to trial.

Are There any Benefits to Mandatory Arbitration?

There are several benefits of having a case go through arbitration instead of a jury trial:

  • Faster process. Hearings are usually scheduled within a few months, and the hearing itself usually lasts only a few hours. On the other hand, a jury trial may be scheduled out a year or more after the case is filed. Most personal injury trials last at least a week.
  • Less cost. There are only modest filing fees for placing a case into Mandatory Arbitration. Filers avoid the attorney fees they’d pay for a trial. In arbitration, you can submit declarations from doctors instead of having to pay them to testify in person.
  • Quick settlement. In most cases, the arbitrator issues the award within a few days of the hearing.

Overall, the process is less formal and brings a quicker resolution.

Can I Choose Mandatory Arbitration if My Case is More than $100,000?

As explained earlier, the Mandatory Arbitration Rule requires that cases under $100,000 be placed in arbitration.

But what if your case is valued at more than $100,000 and you want to opt for arbitration over a jury trial? You can still place your case into arbitration, the largest settlement amount you can receive is $100,000. Even so, sometimes you might decide the benefits of arbitration are worth the potential loss.

Is There a Cost for Mandatory Arbitration?

Yes. The current cost to place a case into Mandatory Arbitration is $220. There is also a $240 fee to start the lawsuit. These fees are subject to change.

Is the Decision Made at the Arbitration Final?

The finality of the decision depends on if the arbitration is mandatory or voluntary. If the case was voluntary, the decision is final. In mandatory arbitration cases, you can appeal the decision.

How Do I Appeal My Mandatory Arbitration Decision?

Either party can appeal if they believe the arbitrator’s decision was grossly unfair. But there are some potential risks to consider before moving forward.

If a party appeals a decision, it then goes to a jury trial. The party that files the appeal must have strong belief that they can improve their position. If they do not succeed, they will have to pay the opposing party’s attorneys’ fees. These fees can run thousands of dollars. This added process and financial risk often deter people from filing an appeal.

To learn if an arbitration or jury trial will apply to your situation, please call the attorneys at Ladenburg Law. We’re here to help explain your rights and legal options.

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