How do you get the most out of court-annexed arbitration, required by Rhode Island courts for most personal injury cases? The court-annexed arbitration process may allow you to settle your case without going to trial. But you will still have the option to go to trial if you are not happy with the arbitration award.
How Court-Annexed Arbitration Works for Personal Injury Cases
Arbitration is a process in which you and the insurance company present witnesses and evidence to an impartial arbitrator who decides the case. The arbitrator is a former judge or an experienced attorney. Rhode Island courts require court-annexed arbitration for most personal injury cases worth $100,000 or less. Unlike standard arbitrations, in which the arbitrator’s award is binding and resolves the case completely, a court-annexed arbitration award is non-binding, unless both sides agree to accept the award. This means that either party, or both parties, may reject the award and go ahead with a trial if they are unsatisfied.
Before the hearing, both sides send their lists of witnesses, documents, and a statement of their claims or defenses to the arbitrator. The hearing takes 4 hours or less. During the hearing, your attorney may have you or other witnesses testify, may argue your claims, and may present documents and evidence. The insurance company’s attorney will do the same thing, and may ask you questions if you testify.
About 10 days after the hearing, the arbitrator issues his or her award, telling the parties who wins each claim, and how much money the insurance company must pay if you win.
How to Get the Most Out of Court-Annexed Arbitration
Having an experienced personal injury lawyer on your side will help you get the most out of this required arbitration process.
The lawyer will help you prepare your case for hearing. The lawyer will meet with you, review important papers, and put together a package for the arbitrator explaining why you should win your case and how much money you should win. The lawyer will prepare you for any testimony that you may want to present at the hearing.
The lawyer will present your case at the hearing – just like at trial.
Following the arbitration, the lawyer will help you evaluate its outcome. With the arbitrator’s award in hand, the lawyer will discuss with you whether he or she thinks you received a fair award, the pros and cons of accepting or rejecting the award, and whether you should proceed to trial.
All of this requires careful preparation and communication with you, the client. Using this process for its maximum benefits can help you get the best possible outcome from your personal injury case.