Arbitration is designed to require minimum judicial intervention. Because arbitration is a quasi- judicial proceeding and is adversarial in nature, evidence is presented, witnesses testify and parties argue the facts and the law to either a single impartial decision maker or to an arbitration panel. An arbitration award is then made and signed in writing by the panel members. Where the panel members are all in agreement, the award is called a consent award.
A well run arbitration proceeding should begin with a scheduling conference. The arbitrators should run a tight ship with a scheduling agreement signed by the parties spelling out the names of the witnesses to be called, a detailed list of the evidence to be offered, and the specific dates the witnesses are to testify. The arbitrators can also request that specific written documentary evidence be provided to them by a date certain, mutually exchanged by the parties and that an arbitration submission statement be provided to the panel.
The personal injury arbitration submission statement usually includes a detailed fact history of the case, a history of prior relevant medical history, the applicable law on liability, the law on damages, and an application to the facts of the case to the law on issues of damages to include medical bills, future medical bills, wage loss, permanent injury impairment ratings, pain, life style effects of the injuries and life expectancy of the petitioner.
Once the arbitrators are sworn and the arbitration hearing begins an opening statement is given by the attorneys representing the parties. After the opening statements witnesses are sworn and then testify. At the conclusion of the presentation of the evidence a summation is given. At the time of the summation, the arbitrators may ask the attorneys specific questions for clarification that relate to issues of liability, damages, or credibility of a witness.
At the end of summation but before issuing an award, the arbitrators may offer the parties the opportunity to brief a pertinent issue of law that arose during the hearing. Counsel should always take advantage of this offer as an opportunity to further advance their clients legal position. Counsel should never assume that a seasoned personal injury arbitrator knows all of the latest case law and legal theories. The client's case is won on both credibility and how the facts interrelate with the law. Arbitrators respect lawyers that are knowledgeable and who educate them to help them issue a reasoned legally correct and fair arbitration award.
Often in a personal injury case a physician will be called to testify as a treating physician for the petitioner. It is often quite difficult to coordinate the schedule of a three panel arbitration board, the attorney for the petitioner, counsel for the respondent and the expert medical witnesses.
Where the medical proof is quite basic, medical proof can be made by way of signed written medical reports or video deposition. Where the medical proof is more complex, the attorney for the petitioner should consider calling the petitioner's medical expert as a live witness. A live crisp direct examination of the medical expert by the petitioner's attorney coupled with a well prepared medical expert properly anticipating the issues to be raised on cross examination can go a long way in making an effective medical proof. The net result can mean a substantial win for the client.
If you are located in Southbury, Stamford, Fairfield County, or the surrounding areas, contact our firm today!