Frequently Asked Questions about Arbitration

Many individuals often have arbitration questions like, “What is Arbitration” due to the fact that the proceedings uphold their own arbitration law. Arbitrations are a form of “Alternative Dispute Resolution” (ADR) in which an arbitrator or arbitration panel (depending on the language of the insurance policy) hear both sides of a case and make a decision similar to what a jury would be asked to decide. Both sides present their cases to the arbitrator(s) by giving opening statements, calling witnesses, presenting all relevant evidence, and then giving closing arguments. Oftentimes arbitrations are much more informal than a jury trial, and the rules of evidence are typically more relaxed than in court in front of a judge. Unlike a jury trial, arbitrators will usually take several weeks before they make their judgement.

Personal Injury Subject to Oregon Arbitration

In Oregon Arbitration, there are several ways in which a personal injury claim can be subject to Arbitration or Mediation. The most common probably occurs in counties that require “non-binding” arbitration for lawsuits filed under a set amount. For example, some counties require any cases filed for total damages under $50,000 to have to go through “non-binding” arbitration before the case can be tried to a jury. After the arbitrator(s) make a decision, either side can appeal the award and continue to the jury trial. The catch, however, is that the appealing party must improve their position at trial or they may end up having to pay the other side’s costs and attorney fees.

Unfortunately, a loophole in this system is that some insurance companies seem to not take the “non-binding” arbitration seriously, and will not present their case fully, as they would later do in the jury trial. The reason could be that by presenting a lackadaisical defense, the arbitrator may award the plaintiff more than what a jury would likely award, thereby reducing the risks associated with appealing the arbitration. As a result, some attorneys refuse to file a case under the county minimum so that time is not wasted in going to court-mandated arbitration.

Answers About Arbitration Towards Own Insurance

Another question about arbitration we usually get is about when a plaintiff make a claim against their own insurance policy. This can happen in at least two ways: First, a plaintiff may have their Personal Injury Benefits “cut-off” by their own insurance company. In the event that happens, the insured can demand “binding arbitration” to determine whether their benefits should be extended. In addition, there are usually unpaid medical bills from the date of the “cut-off” through the time of the arbitration. An arbitrator or arbitration panel will decide whether the past medical treatment was “reasonable and necessary,” and whether the insured should have their treatment extended. During these “PIP arbitrations” the arbitrator is only deciding issues of medical treatment, and not anything relating to liability and damages.

Answers About Uninsured Motorist Arbitration

The second most common arbitration happens when an injured party has either an “Uninsured Motorist Claim,” or an “Underinsured Motorist Claim.” Uninsured Motorist claims happen when an uninsured driver causes an accident. Every Oregon insurance policy has uninsured motorist coverage. Your own insurance company will “fill the shoes” of the at-fault driver, and you can recover your damages from your own insurance company. Instead of a jury trial, however, almost all insurance policies require that your case be tried in arbitration. Your case will be tried as if to a jury, and an arbitrator or panel will make a “binding” decision as to the amount of damages you are entitled to.

Similarly, when the at-fault driver did not have adequate insurance coverage, and if you had additional “Underinsured Motorist” coverage under your own policy, an arbitrator or arbitration panel will decide your total damages, and you can recover the additional amount up to your policy limits.

Typically arbitrations are a much quicker process than jury trials. Arbitrators in personal injury claims are usually retired judges or experienced attorneys who know the procedures and are very well versed in personal injury claims. If you have any additional arbitration questions please feel free to reach out to Ryan Hilts for all your legal needs at: (503) 726-5960

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