You’ve been in a collision, your car is broken, and so are you. You expect that the other person’s insurance will pay for everything. But insurance companies are in the business of making money, which means that they will pay you as little as they can get away with.
So what do you do when the other person’s insurance company offers you pennies on the dollar? It used to be that you had no choice but to file a lawsuit and go to trial. In many, maybe most cases, that isn’t true anymore. You have other choices, such as mediation and arbitration. The law in Washington state allows you to ask for arbitration if the amount of money involved is less than $50,000.00. Some contracts, including some insurance contracts, call for arbitration, but those contracts are more and more rare, since insurance companies think that they get a better result from juries than from experienced attorneys. You can mediate if you and the other person’s insurance company agree.
So, what is an arbitration? An arbitration is like a trial. The parties can agree to an Arbitrator, or else the Court appoints someone, usually a lawyer who has experience in personal injury law, to be Arbitrator, who is both the judge and the jury. In personal injury cases, the Arbitrator decides who is at fault, and how much money the injured person should get.
One of the biggest differences between an arbitration and a trial is that, in an arbitration, you don’t have to have all of your witnesses testify in person. You can use their sworn statements, instead. Because of that, arbitrations are usually less expensive, and usually take less time. While a trial may take four or five days, an arbitration usually takes less than a day, and many time it takes less than half of a day.
What is a mediation? A mediation is a negotiation meeting. Instead of a court appointing someone, in a mediation the parties agree to have an experienced lawyer or retired judge listen to the facts and arguments from both you and the other person. The mediator then tries to have everyone meet somewhere near the middle, by pointing out the strengths and weaknesses of each side’s case. If the mediator gets everyone close to the middle by seeing the risks of a trial and the benefits of settling, the case can settle.
Both arbitrations and mediations can be good ways to get a fair result for you, but it depends on the facts of your case. Kadish Twersky, personal injury attorneys in Snohomish County, will explain to you whether arbitration or mediation is appropriate for your case, depending on the facts.