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My car accident is already at arbitration, is it too late to speak with a lawyer?

Contacting a lawyer can be an intimidating decision to make. You may not think it is necessary at the start of your personal injury settlement discussions.

However, somewhere along the way, you may decide that you do need professional legal help. Is it too late?

We've asked attorney, Alaina Sullivan, to help answer this question. Here's how she clarified this issue:

Is It Too Late?

It is never too late to speak to a lawyer. The question is whether talking to a lawyer will assist, and the timing of when you do speak with an attorney plays into the answer to this question.

What Is Arbitration?

Arbitration is a form of alternative dispute resolution. Unlike mediation, which is a bit free form and controlled by the parties, arbitration has more structure and more bite to the decisions coming out of the procedure. Further, the third party in mediation is someone who facilitates discussion, directing parties to a hopeful resolution.

A Lawyer Explains Speaking with a lawyer while in insurance arbitration

In arbitration, the third party is the person making the decisions. Many insurance contracts require arbitration before proceeding to trial, but in many other situations, parties prefer to take this avenue in lieu of going to trial.

However, keep in mind that the insurance company will likely be bringing an attorney with them to the negotiations. The fact that this proceeding is less formal does not mean legal rights are not being protected.

If you are hesitant at all in being there by yourself, contacting counsel is always a good option.

The Steps to Arbitration

Getting to the point of arbitration can take some steps. The parties must first agree to arbitrate. The next step for them is to agree to the arbitrator and who will pay the fees. Two different types of arbitration are available, binding and nonbinding. With binding arbitration, the arbitrator’s decision is final, just as if the parties went to court and were given a judgment by the judge.

In non-binding arbitration, the parties are given a recommendation by the arbitrator, which they can accept or reject, proceeding on to litigation. Arbitration can also be used to determine only certain issues of the case.

The parties may take the issue of fault to arbitration but choose to leave the amount of damages to the court.

Parties must also agree as to the evidence rules involved in arbitration. Evidence can be presented informally on paper or presented as if the parties were in court, albeit with lesser standards in terms of what is and is not admissible.

Knowing Who Is the Arbitrator

When it comes to arbitration of personal injury claims with insurance companies, the arbitrator is an “independent” claims adjuster. That alone can cause you to be a little wary of how much you can trust the process. The adjusters are normally experienced in insurance and personal injury litigation.

They are said to be unbiased but the mere fact that they have experience in this industry and you might find yourself questioning whether they bring in preconceived notions regarding types of accidents.

Having counsel with you may help you get around these roadblocks if you encounter them.

Have You Begun the Process?

If you have decided to pursue arbitration but have not formally started the proceedings, you can bring in an attorney. Keep in mind that this attorney will need to go along with the fact that you are pursuing an alternative dispute resolution method. It also might be expensive and lengthy for that person to get caught up to speed before arbitration begins.

However, you are certainly not barred from hiring your own representation. In fact, if you are hesitant at all about handling the process on your own, it is always best to consult with an attorney before beginning.

Was the Arbitration Non-Binding?

If you have gone through arbitration and have been issued a non-binding decision, you have a choice of whether you would like to accept that decision or not. Nothing is written in stone, and you are more than welcome to speak with an attorney if you want a professional to review your options before you sign on the dotted line.

However, if the arbitration was binding and the decision has already been issued by the arbitrator but just not formally accepted by the court, it is unfortunately too late. Binding arbitration requires the parties to agree before the process even begins that they will take the decision of the arbitrator as the final decision.

You cannot then go and litigate the case if you do not agree with the decision. Contacting an attorney at that point would not do you much good. It all matters as to when you contact the attorney and where you are in the process.

Speak with a Lawyer Today

A licensed personal injury attorney will be able to evaluate your case and determine if you have a claim against the other party’s insurance company. For the best chance of receiving the compensation you need to pay for medical bills, auto body bills, and pain and suffering, you should speak with a personal injury attorney in your area today.

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