I am a Utah personal injury attorney who mainly helps people who are injured in car accidents. As a result, I often use arbitration to resolve my client’s car accident insurance claims. Here is what arbitration is for Utah car accidents and the pros and cons of using arbitration compared to a jury trial.
What is Arbitration for Car Accidents?
Arbitration for Utah car accidents is where you hire an experienced lawyer to informally hear the facts from both sides and issue a decision on who was at fault and how much money will adequately and fairly compensate the party for their injuries.
Car accident arbitration can be voluntary or by agreement between the parties. Arbitration can become mandatory under Utah’s insurance code, found at Utah Code Ann. 31A-22-321. Since our Founding Fathers were wise enough to preserve the jury right in all criminal and civil actions, you can always ask for a jury demand if the arbitration verdict is not favorable to your side. The jury right is found in the United States Constitution and the Utah Constitution. This jury right after an arbitration is found at Utah Code Ann. 31A-22-321.
The Pros of Using Car Accident Arbitration–Costs and Time.
The main benefit of using arbitration to resolve your Utah car accident claim is that it’s timely and it saves on costs.
Fact discovery time periods are less, only 150 days by statute. See Utah Code Ann. 31A-22-321(5). Court cases on a jury track can drag on forever, even with a diligent, pushing personal injury attorney. The insurance defense attorneys have no incentive to push cases to resolution, unless it means a dismissal. Speed to recovery matters.
Additionally there tends to be less discovery on arbitration track cases because the parties, if they are dissatisfied with the result, are allowed an additional 90 days of discovery. The arbitration verdict is appealed de-novo. This additional discovery period is found in Utah Code Ann. 31A-22-321(12). Less discovery in a car accident case increases your speed to receiving fair and adequate compensation.
The longer a case drags on the more costs are incurred, which ultimately the client will pay out of their compensation.
With arbitration, you will incur an arbiter fee, which for a half- day arbitration will run about $400 to $500 for your portion of the arbiter’s fees. So, it can cost about $800-$1,000 to hire an arbiter. Where you really save money in arbitrations is that you don’t have to spend the money to bring in your expert medical witnesses. Expert medical witnesses can charge around $3,000 or more for their trial testimony. If your personal injury car accident case is less than $25,000 in total value, you can really eat up your client’s compensation by bringing a host of experts to court. Just imagine bringing the chiropractic physician, the orthopedic surgeon, your economist and a life care planner to court. As you can see, the expert witness bill will really rack up fast.
Cons of Using Arbitration–Low Verdicts.
The main problem with using arbitration for your Utah car accident cases is low arbitration verdicts. In Utah you can use a three person arbitration panel, but that increases your costs and may, or may not render a better verdict. A three panel arbitration is allowed under Utah Code Ann. 31A-22-321(6). If the parties cannot agree on a single arbiter, each part will select an arbiter of their choice and then the two selected arbiters will mutually select a third arbiter.
Arbiters can get black listed by insurance carriers if their verdicts are too high. Arbiters are often in the business of doing a lot of arbitrations and therefore they don’t want to run the risk of getting blacklisted by an insurance carrier who gives them a lot of business. Therefore, it can happen where they just “split the baby”–meaning middle of the road money verdicts. Nothing out of the ordinary, just down the middle. You will rarely hit a home run and obtain a robust verdict in a Utah car accident arbitration. You will need to see the people–the jury to get a real fair and adequate verdict.
Arbitration is a good way to resolve Utah car accident insurance claims. It is fast and cost effective. But not all Utah car accident cases should be handled through arbitration. Many cases should be set for a jury track for full, fair and adequate compensation. Only an experienced personal injury attorney will understand these nuances and when to select a jury, rather than settle or to conduct an arbitration.