Trial and Arbitration Options for a Personal Injury Claim.
Option One: a Jury Trial
In a courtroom trial where damages are expected to exceed $50,000, an eight to twelve member jury typically hears the case. Doctors and other experts must testify in person or on video. The jury decides if the defendant was negligent, then determines the size of the injured person’s monetary award.
Option Two: an Arbitration Hearing
In an arbitration hearing, a panel of three attorneys (arbitrators) set in the Court of Common Pleas decides if a defendant was negligent, then determines the damages, up to $50,000. Instead of live or video testimony, reports by doctors and other experts are introduced into evidence. The award can be appealed within 30 days, then heard by a jury or, if both parties agree, by a judge.
Alternative Arbitration Formats
Another form of arbitration can be heard by either one or three lawyers. The attorneys of the injured person and the at-fault driver must agree to this format, and decide if the award will be binding. If they agree to three arbitrators, each attorney selects one lawyer, who together appoint a third. This attorney is considered neutral, and acts as chairperson at the hearing. The hearing typically takes place in the neutral attorney’s office, where the panel typically consider the reports of doctors and other experts, just as they do in Common Pleas arbitration.
Another common alternative, called a “High-Low Arbitration,” occurs when the attorneys for the injured person and the insurance company negotiate a maximum and minimum award. At the hearing’s conclusion, the arbitrators arrive at a dollar figure between the high and low amounts.