If you have been injured in a car accident and the insurance company is not giving you a reasonable settlement offer, you may be able to make a claim in mandatory arbitration instead of in a jury trial. Arbitration is mandatory for monetary claims less than $50,000 in most of Washington State, including Kennewick, Pasco, and Richland (Benton and Franklin counties). Compared to trial by jury, arbitration has several benefits: the cost is lower (around $1,000 instead of $10,000 or more); the hearing is sooner (3-6 months instead of a year or more); and the hearing is shorter (several hours instead of several days).
Arbitration may be perfect for your claim if your damages are less than $50,000, you aren’t permanently disabled, and you don’t have a claim against an insurance company who automatically appeals arbitration awards. Just like a jury trial, you will need to testify about how the car accident has impacted your life. You will also need witness testimony from your doctors, employer, co-workers, and friends and family who have seen how your injuries have affected you. The arbitration hearing is usually held in a law office instead of the courthouse.
Within a few weeks, if the claim is decided in your favor, the arbitrator will award damages and will require the insurance company to pay costs and attorney’s fees. If the insurance company doesn’t appeal within 20 days, the award is final.
Unfortunately, insurance companies often appeal arbitration awards and force a jury trial because they know it costs you more time, energy, and money. In my experience, about one-third of arbitration awards are appealed. That is, unless the insurance company for the defendant is Allstate, then it’s close to 100%.
If you have any questions about this process, call Anderson Law. We’re here to help!