Understanding New Jersey Personal Injury Arbitration
New Jersey law requires that personal injury cases be submitted to arbitration when the amount at issue is less than $20,000.
Arbitration is a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR). ADR is intended to help the parties resolve their conflicts more quickly and inexpensively than by using traditional litigation, and to relieve the pressure on the courts.
An arbitration is less formal and complex than a court trial. It’s held in a conference room rather than in a courtroom. There is no jury. Instead, the arbitration is conducted by a retired judge or experienced, neutral personal injury attorney. While trials can take days, weeks, or months, a personal injury arbitration can be concluded in as little as an hour.
Just as in a trial, each side has the opportunity to make its case. The attorneys can present witnesses and documents and make legal arguments. Documentation can include photos, police reports, medical reports, diagrams of an accident scene, and other evidence to help the arbitrator determine who is at fault and what the measure of damages should be.
The arbitrator decides whether or not the parties will testify. If so, parties will be placed under oath, just as in a court trial, and the same penalties for perjury apply. A witness can be questioned by both the attorneys and the arbitrator.
At the end of the arbitration, the arbitrator issues an award. Either side has 30 days in which to reject the award and go to trial. If neither party rejects the award, then the case will be settled for the amount awarded.
Most arbitration awards are appealed, and so the process may sometimes seem like a waste of time. However, arbitration can be an efficient way to resolve disputes, and even if the parties appeal, the “reality check” of arbitration can lead to a settlement before trial.
Arbitration is not to be confused with mediation. A mediator doesn’t decide which party should prevail and award damages, but only helps the parties try to settle the dispute by themselves.
In accordance with New Jersey Court Rule 4:21A, all actions for personal injury not arising out of the operation, ownership, maintenance or use of an automobile in which the amount in controversy does not exceed $20,000 are submitted to arbitration. Cases are screened and scheduled, and parties are notified for arbitration by the arbitration staff in the Civil Division Manager''s Office. Arbitrators must be attorneys with at least seven years of experience in personal injury law or retired Superior Court Judges, who are compensated by the State of New Jersey.
If you have a personal injury case and want to know more about arbitration, contact the New Jersey Law Offices of Greenberg, Walden & Grossman, LLC.