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Alternative Dispute Resolution

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) involves dispute resolution processes such as mediation and arbitration. ADR has become widely accepted in the legal arena and many courts now require the parties to submit to some type of ADR, typically mediation, before allowing the case to be tried. ADR can be a useful tool in resolving disputes and generally imposes fewer costs that litigation, allows the parties to maintain confidentiality, and allows the parties greater control over the resolution of the dispute

The Arbitration Process

The following details the general elements of the arbitration process. This analysis will focus on the policies and procedures used by The American Arbitration Association who wrote the following information entitled “Arbitration Information for No-fault Cases”. Minor modifications were made to clarify the process.

What is the AAA

The American Arbitration Association (AAA) is a private, national, nonprofit, impartial organization dedicated to the resolution of all types of disputes through the use of arbitration mediation, democratic elections, and other voluntary methods. The AAA is the NEUTRAL ADMINISTRATOR of the arbitration process. The Association does not act as the arbitrator, nor does it favor either side. The AAA is not connected with the insurance industry or with the State in any way.

What do Tribunal Administrators do?

Tribunal administrators arrange for the appointment of an arbitrator and the scheduling of the hearing. They also handle all communication between the parties and the arbitrator, except during the hearing. Since direct communication between a party and an arbitrator may cause an award to be invalidated all communications should be directed through a Tribunal Administrator. However, direct communication between the parties is encouraged. When the arbitrator has finalized the award, an Administrator distributes copies of the arbitrator’s award to the parties. In addition, Tribunal Administrators provide information and educate parties about the arbitration process.

Who is the arbitrator?

The arbitrator is an attorney who has five or more years of experience as a lawyer in the field in which the dispute arises. An arbitrator functions as an impartial decision-maker. After reviewing the rules, and accepting testimony and evidence from both parties, the arbitrator makes his/her decision.

How does the arbitration process begin?

The arbitration process begins, or is initiated, when the Claimant or the Claimant’s attorney files a Petition for Arbitration with the American Arbitration Association. Claimants may represent themselves, rather than seeking legal counsel.

What happens next in the arbitration process?

The AAA will send a letter to the insurance company, informing the claims representative that Claimant has initiated arbitration. The insurance company is billed for the appropriate administrative fee and is required to supply the AAA with the name of the person who will represent the insurance company. The AAA sends a list of four proposed, qualified arbitrators to the parties. Each party may cross off one of the arbitrators and put the remaining three in order of preference. The AAA will invite the mutually acceptable arbitrator to serve on the case. The arbitrator is bound by the Code of Ethics to disclose any relationships that might indicate bias or a conflict of interest. A copy of any disclosure made by the arbitrator is sent to each of the parties. If the arbitrator accepts the appointment, the parties are so advised, and a hearing is scheduled in accordance with the Rules.

How should you preparing for a hearing?

A party should gather all pertinent information to support its side of the claim including medical reports, employment records, and witnesses. This allows the parties to present their cases in an organized and concise fashion, giving the arbitrator a better understanding of the case. Attorneys prepare this summary or checklist in the form of a Statement of the Case. You should meet your attorney prior to the arbitration to discuss your testimony. Thorough preparation will help you present your facts in a clear, concise manner and increase the chances of a favorable result.

When and where does the hearing take place?

The hearing will take place on a date that is mutually acceptable for the arbitrator and the two disputing parties. At the present time arbitrations are being scheduled after a Petition for Arbitration has been received. The location of the hearing may be the arbitrator’s office, the AAA office, or some other appropriate site agreed upon by the parties.

What if a scheduled hearing is postponed?

The Association charges a postponement fee against the party requesting the postponement of a scheduled hearing. If a hearing must be rescheduled, calendars are sent to the parties and a hearing is scheduled on a mutually acceptable date.

How is a hearing conducted?

An arbitration hearing is informal. No courtroom jury or court reporter is generally used. It is important to arrive on time and be prepared to proceed. Each party is given the opportunity to explain its side of the case to the arbitrator. The arbitrator is then free to ask questions and the arbitration is closed.

What happens after the hearing?

The arbitrator is allowed 30 days after the hearing is closed within which to make his/her award. A Tribunal Administrator will then transmit the award to the parties. The award is legally binding upon the parties and can be enforced by the courts.

What is an award?

An award is the arbitrator’s legally binding decision made after an arbitration hearing. The arbitrator has the authority to award the total amount claimed, a partial amount, or deny the claim based on the evidence presented. The award also includes the amount of the arbitrator’s compensation and the party responsible for paying this compensation, and addresses the matter of how the parties’ filing fees should be borne.