Watch Out for Arbitration Agreements
If you are injured, a large part of your claim may be your pain, suffering, and the difficulties that your injury have caused you in day to day life. You may be depending on a jury to listen to you and relate to how you are feeling when awarding you damages, as these kinds of damages don’t have a definitive price tag on them, the way lost wages or outstanding medical bills would.
But what if the right to have a jury of your peers hear your case was taken away from you? What if the right to even have a judge hear your case was taken away from you? And what if you later realized that you had actually agreed to lose all of these rights?
In fact, this is what happens with arbitration agreements. Arbitration agreements, which force a case to be heard in arbitration, by an arbitrator, are in more and more contracts that we sign every day.
An arbitrator is a neutral third party who hears your case like a judge might hear your case. However, the arbitrator does not have to be a judge, trained the way a judge is, and accountable to the general public the way a judge is. The arbitrator can be almost any kind of professional.
Yes, the arbitrator is supposed to be, and is trained to be, neutral the way a judge is. However, that can be hard to do, because insurance companies or large corporations will use the arbitrator’s (or arbitration company’s) services routinely. You, as an injured victim with your single case, likely will not be a “repeat customer” for the arbitrator. Thus, the arbitrator may have some pressure to make its bigger customer happier.
Discovery is Limited
Arbitration also limits discovery—the amount of information you can get from the other side. In most injury cases, it is the defendant that has most of the information about the accident: documents, records, recordings, reports, corporate documents, and other information that can tell an injured victim how the company being sued ran its business.
But in arbitration, a victim can be limited in how much information it can get from the other side. Because the other side needs less information from a victim than the other way around, this can severely prejudice a victim.
Lastly, arbitration takes away a victim’s right to a jury. It is just the arbitrator that makes the decision. The “human element” that goes with having a jury of your peers determine the value of your case is now lost (which is why so many companies like arbitration).
Arbitration decisions are generally final. You cannot go to a “real court” if and when you get an unfavorable arbitration decision. This makes arbitration something that accident victims need to be aware of.
Call the Clinton personal injury attorneys at Fox Willis Burnette, PLLC, today to schedule a free consultation if you are injured in any kind of accident.