Arbitration in General and U.C.A. § 31A-22-321 Arbitrations in Third Party Motor Vehicle Accident Cases

by W. Lewis Black
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Utah Code Annotated §31A-22-321 provides for arbitration as an alternative to litigation in certain cases involving third party bodily injury claims where the damages are $50,000.00 or less. Many attorneys have traditionally been reticent to encourage their clients to pursue arbitration, citing arbitration’s potential disadvantages. In particular, critics of arbitration point to the “Repeat Player Syndrome,” in which it is perceived that a potential arbitrator may consistently rule in favor of a particular side, an individual party or a class of parties, in the hopes of further employment opportunities, as a severe limitation. These attorneys often overlook the potential advantages arbitration provides over litigation, such as speed, lower costs, and increased efficiency. Should attorneys be taking more advantage of this statute and these so-called “321 Arbitrations”? In order to address this question, this article examines the advantages and disadvantages of arbitration generally. Then it examines the provisions of U.C.A. § 31A-22-321 specifically.

In our view, in light of the increasingly near cost-prohibitive nature of litigation, 321 Arbitrations have the potential to be effective means of dispute resolution. In cases involving relatively minor bodily injury claims, these arbitrations offer parties a method of resolving the claims in a manner emphasizing speed, efficiency and confidentiality, compared with traditional litigation. We encourage the recognition of the fact that Arbitration Agreements can tailor the process to meet the needs and desires of the parties. Do not assume the opposition will always oppose what you consider important. Arbitration’s speed of resolution of disputes can benefit many of your clients, on either side of the case.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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