If you are injured in a motor vehicle accident and have filed a lawsuit in New Jersey, your case will be sent to mandatary Arbitration. Arbitration takes place at the Superior Court your case is filed in and is held in a conference room, not a court room. The purpose of the arbitration is to help the parties come together to settle the case before it is listed for trial.
When Does My Case Get Listed for Arbitration?
After the “discovery phase” of your case expires, your attorney will receive a notice in the mail, from the court, giving the time and date of the arbitration. Your attorney’s office will contact you about when to appear at court for your arbitration.
Who is the Arbitrator?
The arbitrator is an attorney who has extensive experience in motor vehicle accident cases. In some counties there are two arbitrators – one arbitrator will be a plaintiff’s attorney and the other will be a defense attorney. Other counties have only one arbitrator and he/she can be either a plaintiff or defense attorney. In either situation, the arbitrator will know nothing about your particular case until the attorneys for both sides of your case are called in to explain their side. Attorneys for both the plaintiff and defense prepare packets of information to give the arbitrators to review – these packets include the police report, your medical records, photographs and any other information the attorney feels is necessary to help prove your case.
Who Attends the Arbitration?
Attorneys for both the plaintiff(s) and defendant(s) will be there. If liability is not an issue, like in most rear-end collision cases, only the plaintiff(s) will attend the arbitration. It is up to the arbitrator(s) whether or not you will give testimony at the arbitration. Usually, your testimony will be about how the accident happened, if liability is an issue, any prior medical conditions you may have had and how you are feeling presently. You are placed under oath before giving testimony and can be questioned by all attorneys and the arbitrators.
Will My Case Resolve at Arbitration?
After the arbitrator(s) have heard from both attorneys and the plaintiff, they will ask everyone to leave the room so they can put a value on the case. This value represents what the arbitrator thinks the case should settle for. The Award is the arbitrator’s opinion and is based on his/her experience as a trial attorney in this field of law. In other words, there is no chart that says a specific injury is worth “x” amount of dollars. Each case is unique and each plaintiff adds his/her own value to the case based on the effect the injuries have had on their life.
Each party has 30 days to reject the Arbitration Award. If neither side rejects, the case is settled for the amount of the award. If one side rejects the Award, by filing a form with the court called a Trial de Novo, the case will be placed on the trial list. Most cases do not settle at the actual arbitration, but arbitrations can be helpful in bringing the parties together to talk about what the case is worth.