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Car Accident Arbitration Process and Timeline

You just received the car insurance carrier's final settlement offer. It's far lower than the amount you requested. You firmly believe your car accident insurance claim is worth more. Now what?

Most car insurance policies let you resolve your dispute through an out-of-court process called arbitration. Less formal than a courtroom jury trial, arbitration is a legal proceeding where you and the insurance company present information about your claim to a neutral referee, known as an arbitrator. Arbitration awards are generally legally binding and not appealable.

Arbitration can be a good choice for resolving settlement disputes. It can save you time and money. If you live in a no-fault insurance state, you may be required to arbitrate your car accident settlement disagreement. Read the insurance policy to see if car accident arbitration is an option for you.

Arbitration Timeline

A benefit of auto accident arbitration is that it can be scheduled much quicker and will usually cost less than a trial. Although each personal injury claim involves a unique set of circumstances, the following is a typical timeline in car accident arbitration:

  • Days 1-60: Filing, initiating, and selecting the arbitrator
  • Days 61-90: Information exchange and preparation
  • Day 91-100: Arbitration hearing (may last one or more days)
  • Days 101-110: Arbitrator's decision

Requesting Arbitration

If your settlement negotiations have stalled, tell the claims adjuster you want the claim referred to arbitration. You might be bound by an arbitration clause if your insurance agreement contains one. If it doesn't, and the insurance company refuses arbitration, your next step is to file a lawsuit.

Threatening to sue is only effective if you have a good car accident claim. Highlight your strongest facts when writing your demand for arbitration. Sometimes, parties may choose to resolve a car accident case through binding mediation or arbitration even after a lawsuit has been filed.

Preparing for the Arbitration

Your first task, once you've filed for arbitration, is to select an arbitrator to hear your claim. Arbitrators are often retired judges or experienced lawyers. The parties generally have to agree on an arbitrator.

Once selected, the arbitrator is both the judge and the jury. Research each candidate and choose one with a reputation for fairness and integrity. The insurance policy or the laws of your state may determine the number of arbitrators and how they are selected. Still, you have an equal vote in the final choice.

After you agree on an arbitrator, you will set a deadline for exchanging documents with the insurance company. You'll also set a date for the arbitration hearing.

Review the information provided by the insurance company. You need to understand the argument they are making against your claim. Be prepared to present evidence that weakens their case.

What To Expect During the Arbitration

Car insurance arbitration hearings usually occur with all the parties in the same room. This is so the arbitrator can hear a back-and-forth discussion of the claim.

Sometimes, the parties may be separated into different rooms. This is so their cases can be heard individually by the arbitrator. A typical hearing only lasts a few hours, but some cases can last for days. This should be enough time for you to explain your damages and why the insurance company owes the amount you allege.

On the day of the arbitration, come prepared to perform the following tasks:

  • Make an opening statement
  • Call witnesses and cross-examine them
  • Present evidence that explains and supports your claim
  • Be prepared to handle opposition
  • Make closing statements

Remember that arbitration is like a courtroom trial without all the detailed rules of procedure. It's normal to feel some stress and anxiety about the proceeding. Accident victims can boost their confidence by being well-prepared. This is your day to argue your case. Don't rush through your arbitration presentation.

The Arbitration Award

Shortly after your hearing, the arbitrator will issue an award statement. The statement will offer few details about how the decision was reached. The award is legally binding. It typically can't be appealed if you're unhappy with the results.

Can I Include My Medical Bills in the Arbitration Process?

Yes, incorporating medical bills is an integral part of the arbitration process. Medical treatment costs and rehabilitative therapy are factored into the claim presented during arbitration. Future anticipated medical expenses associated with your accident-related injury might also be included.

What Is Considered a Fair Settlement in the Arbitration Process?

A "fair settlement" is a compensation amount that accounts for all damages you've incurred due to the car accident injury. This includes:

  • Medical expenses
  • Property damage
  • Lost wages
  • Compensation for emotional distress and pain and suffering

A fair settlement should aim to place you in the position you would have been in if the accident had not occurred.

Do I Need To Provide My Medical Records During Arbitration?

Yes, providing your medical records forms an important part of the evidence in your arbitration case. Medical records detail the nature and extent of your injuries and the treatment you've received. This information validates your claims about the accident's impact on your health.

What Is Nonbinding Arbitration?

Nonbinding arbitration differs from binding arbitration in that the arbitrator's decision isn't final. The parties involved in the arbitration have the freedom to accept or reject the arbitrator's decision. If they reject the decision, the disputing parties may escalate the case to a court trial.

Can I Arbitrate With the At-Fault Driver's Insurance Company?

Absolutely. Arbitration can indeed take place with the at-fault driver's insurance company. This process depends on the policy stipulations or mutual agreement between the parties. Opting for arbitration over a court trial can be beneficial due to its typically quicker resolution time and reduced costs.

How Does the Insurance Adjuster Factor Into the Arbitration Process?

While insurance adjusters play a pivotal role in the initial assessment and negotiation phases of a claim, they aren't typically the ones who represent insurance companies in formal arbitration proceedings. Instead, insurance companies usually have legal representatives or attorneys to advocate on their behalf in such settings.

Do your best to be well-prepared for arbitration. Understand that you'll be facing experienced legal professionals. A personal injury attorney can help you present your case convincingly.

Can I Claim Property Damage in the Arbitration Process?

Certainly. You can claim damages sustained to your personal property, including your vehicle, during the accident. This is factored into the compensation amount you're seeking in the arbitration process. The aim is to account for all losses you've experienced due to the accident.

Can the Arbitration Process Affect the Settlement Amount?

Yes, the arbitration process considerably influences the final settlement amount. In a binding arbitration scenario, the arbitrator's decision usually determines the payout from the insurance company. In nonbinding arbitration, there's room for further negotiation. There's also the possibility of proceeding to court if the parties are unsatisfied with the arbitrator's decision. This flexibility may impact the final settlement amount.

Get Legal Advice From a Car Accident Lawyer

Determining whether arbitration is the right choice for your car crash case is difficult. A personal injury lawyer experienced in auto insurance arbitration can help you understand the insurance policy and its arbitration clause.

If you're considering arbitration or other forms of alternative dispute resolution to resolve your car accident settlement, an experienced accident attorney can help. Speak with an auto accident attorney today. Many will give you a free case evaluation, and you can learn more about arbitration.

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