Trial or Arbitration?

Trial or Arbitration? Most of the time, the court makes that decision for you. Local Superior Court Rules require that cases having a value of less than $50,000.00 be arbitrated. Most insurance policies require arbitration if there is a dispute between the policyholder and the insurance company for uninsured or underinsured benefits.

Appeals are available from Superior Court Arbitrations as “trials de novo” or new trials. Either party unhappy with the arbitrators’ decision may appeal the verdict and receive a jury trial in Superior Court. Penalties are assessed if the party filing the appeal does not better the award by 23% or more. The Clerk of the Court assigns arbitrators from lists of lawyers maintained by specialty. Lawyers practicing in the area of personal injury generally act as arbitrators in personal injury cases. Lawyers practicing in the area of Contracts Law are usually assigned to cases involving interpretation of contracts.

Uninsured and underinsured claims are usually handled by three member panels. Until recently, appeals were not available from uninsured and underinsured arbitrations. Several years ago, State Farm amended their policy to not only allow for an appeal, but to have the case decided by a one-person panel rather than a three-person panel. Recently, State Farm has required that suit be filed against the company. Other companies are beginning to follow this trend.

While just as important as a trial, an arbitration has a relaxed atmosphere. Fewer witnesses are called, reliable hearsay is allowed in by way of expert reports and medical records, and costs of presentation are greatly reduced. The arbitration relies more on substance than procedure and can generally be completed much quicker than a Superior Court trial.

Sometimes by agreement, or “stipulation” a case can be arbitrated rather than presented to a judge and jury. This is rare, but it does happen.

Read your policy regarding arbitration. If you don’t understand it, call us and we will explain it to you. Re-examine your limits for uninsured and underinsured coverage and make sure they are in the same amount as your liability coverage, (see last month’s posting on Uninsured and underinsured coverages.) Protecting your family from the catastrophic losses that an unfortunate accident can present should be your number one priority.

This message is brought to you as a public service by the Rockafellow Law Firm, Tucson’s Premier Personal Injury Law Firm.

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