Mandatory Arbitration - A Great Choice for Small Car Accidents

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Mandatory Arbitration - A Great Choice for Small Car Accidents
Written By: Josh Lowell ~ 2/26/2024

Trial is expensive, tedious, and often life-draining experience for all involved. With costs stretching into the tens of thousands for even simple cases, it may be financially impractical for small car accidents. The Washington legislature introduced RCW Chapter 7.06 to help create justice for those involved in claims for fewer damages. This Mandatory Arbitration statute is a great opportunity after smaller car accidents to access the courts without the risk or cost of trial.

What is Mandatory Arbitration?

Instead of a jury or judicial bench trial, Mandatory Arbitration places an arbitrator as the fact finder and decision-maker. This arbitrator must be a qualified attorney who has practiced in the field for several years. In lieu of a week or two long trial, witnesses will testify in front of the arbitrator, and they will decide after a single hearing outside the courtroom.

What are the Benefits of Mandatory Arbitration?

Cost and time! As the injured party, you will typically incur costs totaling approximately $750 to $1,000 pursuing Mandatory Arbitration. Fortunately, if you win, many of these costs are reimbursable. Unlike trial where witnesses need be called live to testify, witnesses may be called by written declaration in an arbitration. For expert witnesses especially, this can save thousands (if not tens of thousands) of dollars.

Not only will you save in costs, but the time to pursue Mandatory Arbitration is substantially less than trial. Typically, you will have a hearing within about three months of filing the lawsuit; whereas it takes at least one year or more to reach trial.

What are the Downsides of Mandatory Arbitration?

To ensure only more simple cases are heard in Mandatory Arbitration, the damages allowed to be awarded are currently limited to $100,000. This cap used to be $50,000 and may change again in the future. This amount is often sufficient to cover most small to medium car accident claims that do not involve long/permanent injury, broken bones, and surgery.

Cases in Mandatory Arbitration may be appealed to a new trial. In most circumstances, the insurance company is the party who appeals (although an injured party may appeal if they feel the arbitrator failed to understand the case). This threat of appeal often leaves good arbitration awards undone or requires small cases to head to a smaller, quicker, trial de novo (new trial). The benefit of this transition, though, is that if the insurance company fails to improve their position after appealing, they are responsible for your costs and attorney fees incurred after arbitration.

Is Mandatory Arbitration Right for My Case?

Mandatory Arbitration is a major boon to injured parties. Prior to its introduction, it was mostly financially impractical to file lawsuits for smaller injury cases because the costs of the trial would typically outweigh the potential compensation. Mandatory Arbitration – despite its flaws – provides great potential for these matters to be heard in a reasonable and efficient manner. The litigators at the law offices of Magnuson Lowell, P.S. have brought and overseen thousands of arbitrations. Call today for a free case evaluation!


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