Mandatory Arbitration: The Client’s Guide

After handling a variety of cases with different types of people, I’ve learned that many times the law can be confusing for anyone who is not familiar with it. The process can be long and the words lawyers use are sometimes their own language, just like doctors in a hospital or ironworkers at a jobsite. Since I recently completed an interesting mandatory arbitration, I figured I would help “de-lawyerize” (yes, that is a made-up word) the process for any interested readers, clients, or people who may be in a position where they need an attorney.

Mandatory arbitration is a system that was set up in Illinois to help with the high volume of cases in our court system. It is a program in operation in both Madison County and St. Clair County, as well as other counties in the state. The word “arbitration” is used because it is a different or alternative form of resolving a dispute than a normal trial with a judge and jury. The word “mandatory” is used because most cases that are worth under $50,000 must be filed in the arbitration unit, with some exceptions. The good news is that the mandatory arbitration process moves cases along quicker…usually. A law suit is filed with the court in the same way it would be for any other case, but it is filed in the arbitration unit instead of the civil court system.

After a law suit is filed, there is limited discovery that can take place by both sides. Discovery includes allowing each side to ask questions of the other side in writing, requesting documents from them, and taking depositions (questions in person, under oath) of witnesses or people involved in the case. After this is completed, the case can proceed to arbitration.

There will be three arbitrators at the arbitration who decide the value of the case, or the amount of money awarded. The three arbitrators are all attorneys in the area who have enough experience to be on a list that the arbitration unit uses to randomly assign them to cases. Usually the arbitration does not last longer than two hours. It is informal and each side can present their case with an explanation of the facts and witness/party testimony. The arbitrators then give a decision in writing to each side some time after the arbitration. If the decision is accepted by each side, the case is over, but if one side rejects it they can pay a fee to have the case tried again. But this time, it would be in a court room in front of a Judge and jury for an actual trial.

The cases I handle are mostly for people who have been injured in an auto accident, injured at work, or in other ways by negligent parties. Whether it is through arbitration, trial, or battling with insurance companies, I can help “de-lawyerize” a process that is sometimes intimidating. If you have been injured or just have questions about this process, contact our fi¬rm.

Share Button