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Not all personal injury cases make it in front of a jury. Some are dismissed outright, but the vast majority are settled before the need for a trial. These settlements can happen after negotiation between the parties or through some means of alternative dispute resolution like arbitration or mediation.
Whether an injury case goes to trial or arbitration can have an enormous impact on the outcome, so why do certain claims go to arbitration?
Some parties look at the time and costs of a court trial and decide that arbitration may be a quicker and more cost efficient manner of resolving the dispute. In an arbitration scenario, the two sides select an impartial third party, known as an arbitrator, and agree in advance to comply with the arbitrator's award. Then they have a hearing or series of hearings at which both sides can present evidence and testimony until the arbitrator comes to a final decision.
This out-of-court method can be more streamlined, since it removes the formalities of court dates, filings, and jury selection, and more fluid, since it may allows more freedom in presenting evidence. Therefore either party might prefer to voluntarily use an arbitrator instead of a judge or jury to settle the matter, though both parties must agree to arbitration.
In some cases, however, the parties may have no choice but to go to arbitration. More and more contracts these days include an arbitration clause that mandates arbitration in the event of a breach of contract or disagreement about contract terms. These clauses are often inserted to manage the litigation costs of one party or both in some cases. More cynically, some parties to a contract think they are more likely to get a sympathetic arbitrator than jury.
Arbitration clauses are difficult to escape -- most are upheld as valid and binding on both parties. Although some mandatory arbitration clauses in terms of service have been overturned in court or abandoned by companies.
If your personal injury claim is bound by an arbitration clause that doesn't mean you've already lost, nor does it mean you don't need a lawyer. An experienced personal injury attorney can represent your case in arbitration just as well as in court -- consult with one today.