People have been hurling the phrase at one another almost as long as the legal system has existed: I will see you in court! Unfortunately, over the years so many people said it to so many other people, the courts found themselves completely overburdened and backlogged. At that point, the old expression became more accurately: I will see you in court… eventually…!
In the 1980s, the New Jersey courts came up with a plan to fix that problem: Mandatory Arbitration. A form of Alternative Dispute Resolution, arbitration is now a required first step for all cases involving auto accidents and most other personal injury matters. The goal is to achieve a settlement outside of the courtroom, thus reducing the burden on the court system and, in many cases, eliminating the cost of litigation to the parties.
The process goes like this:
The court appoints one or two arbitrators (generally attorneys or retired judges who have received special training) and a hearing is scheduled.
Each party must submit an Arbitration Statement to the arbitrator(s) and to the opposing party 10 days before the hearing date.
Like a less-formal, one-day trial, the hearing includes testimony by witnesses, presentation of evidence by the attorneys, and attorney arguments. All parties are required to appear.
At the end of the hearing, the arbitrator(s) suggests a non-binding settlement, which may include awarding of damages.
The parties have 30 days to decide whether to accept the settlement. In that time, either party may choose instead to file a trial de novo and pay a fee to place the case back onto the court’s list of upcoming trials.
Posted in Personal Injury
Tagged arbitration lawyers, personal injury attorneys