How does arbitration work for car accident claims?

Car accidents may result in injuries ranging from minor to life-changing. Many of these include back and neck pain that may resolve itself in a matter of months. Sitting through a lengthy lawsuit to cover minor injuries or injuries that clear up can seem like a waste of time to the victims, often discouraging them from pursuing a personal injury claim. A personal injury case for a car accident can take upwards of one to two years in Nevada. Nevada law allows smaller car accident cases to use arbitration as an avenue to resolve claims faster.

What Is Arbitration?

Red pawn pieces facing blue pawn pieces with a yellow pawn piece in the middle, and the word "arbitration" floating above them all
Image via Flickr by wuestenigel via CC BY 2.0

Typically, a personal injury case goes before a judge and jury for a decision in either the plaintiff or the defendant’s favor. Arbitration is a similar process that utilizes a neutral third party without using a judge or jury. The plaintiff and defendant agree to hire one or more neutral persons to hear the evidence of their case and issue a decision. The parties involved can ask that the arbitrator’s decision be either binding or non-binding. Clark County, home to Las Vegas, has mandatory arbitration without making the decision binding automatically.

Binding arbitration means that the arbitrator’s decision is final and cannot be appealed by either party. Non-binding arbitration means that the parties can accept or reject the arbitrator’s decision and file a lawsuit to pursue damages.

Court-Annexed Arbitration Program

All cases are automatically enrolled in the mandatory arbitration process through the Court-Annexed Arbitration Program in Clark County. This means that unless exempted from this process, all cases must be arbitrated in Clark County. The purpose of the arbitration program is to provide the parties with a simplified procedure that offers an equitable and prompt resolution. And all arbitration hearings in the program must be held within six months after the arbitrator is appointed, unless there’s a good reason for not sticking with this timeline.

In the case of car accidents, an exemption may be applied to the arbitration program if the damages claimed are over $50,000.00. The request for arbitration exemption must be submitted within 20 days after the defendant’s answer is filed. This request is sent to the arbitration commissioner for consideration.

When the damages are under $50,000.00, the case will enter the arbitration process to be decided by a qualified and neutral third party. Often, after the plaintiff files the lawsuit and the defendant files an answer to the claim, the parties will receive a list of five potential arbitrators. These arbitrators are often local attorneys willing to participate in the arbitration process. Each party is allowed to de-select two of the potential arbitrators, leaving the arbitration commissioner to select an arbitrator for the case from the remaining names.

What Happens at Arbitration?

The parties will typically meet at the arbitrator’s office or the office of one of the attorneys representing either the plaintiff or defendant. Arbitration is similar to a trial in that each party starts with an opening statement, where they tell the arbitrator about their case. Next, you’ll put forth evidence and explain your case under oath. You will describe how the accident happened, why the other driver is the at-fault party, and any damages you have incurred. Evidence may include:

  • Medical bills.
  • Statement of lost income.
  • Transportation bills for appointments.
  • Chiropractic bills.
  • Witness testimony.

Witness testimony will usually include that of friends and family. Doctors and other medical professionals are generally not called to testify during arbitration in an effort to save time and money. Doctors often charge to take time away from their practice to testify. So, relying on the medical statements as the doctor’s testimony instead of calling them to attend in person can save thousands of dollars. It also saves time by limiting the number of witnesses called to testify during the arbitration.

After you’ve shared all of your evidence and presented your side of the case, the defendant will have a chance to present their evidence. You’re allowed to cross-examine any of the defense’s witnesses if you choose.

Once the defendant has presented their side, you can make a closing statement to further explain how the evidence you’ve presented is proof that the defendant is at fault for the accident and therefore responsible for the damages you’ve incurred. Additionally, you will describe the decision or award that you wish the arbitrator to make. The defendant will also have the opportunity to make a closing statement.

The arbitrator will take the evidence and testimony under advisement to review the aspects of your case prior to making a decision. You should expect a written decision within a few days of the end of your arbitration. The rules state that a decision must be issued within seven days of the hearing. If the arbitrator’s decision is unacceptable, the request to move to trial must be made within 30 days of the arbitrator’s decision.

Tips for Arbitration

As you prepare your case for arbitration, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Be prepared. Prepare for your arbitration by organizing your evidence, going over any testimony with witnesses, and deciding what questions to ask the defendant’s witnesses. Also, plan your opening and closing statements to ensure that they’re persuasive.
  • Use pictures. Make your points using pictures, diagrams, and drawings as evidence. Provide photos of the scene of the accident, injuries, medical devices used, and anything else that will support your case.
  • Anticipate arguments. Think about the arguments that the defendant will use to try to sway the arbitrator from identifying them as the at-fault party, and be prepared to refute those arguments.
  • Be sincere. Argue the facts while remaining calm and in control, and let the facts support your point of view.

If the defendant has a lawyer, don’t let that intimidate you. In fact, you should have your own attorney present to fight for your rights and get you the best award possible.

If you or a loved one have been injured in a car accident, reach out to the knowledgeable team of De Castroverde. We have the experience needed to get you through the arbitration process or trial, should it get to that point. You can reach us 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 702-222-9999 or via our secure online messaging system. A team member would be happy to answer your questions or get you scheduled for a free case evaluation.