Personal injury law firm discusses arbitration of auto insurance claims
My name is Barry Zlotowicz and I am the owner of a personal injury law firm headquartered in Glenview, Illinois. I’ve been licensed to practice since 1993. During that time, I have been involved in many auto insurance claims where a client sought to recover from her own auto insurance policy for her damages. If you want a consultation about pursing an uninsured motorist claim against your own auto insurance policy, call me today at 847-305-4105.
Uninsured Motorist Coverage
I have detailed at length in this blog about the need to have adequate amounts of uninsured motorist (UM) coverage. If you get hit by an uninsured driver, you will have to seek compensation from your own insurance policy. In Illinois, everyone has a minimum of $25,000 in UM coverage if they have auto insurance.
What’s the Catch?
Once you file a claim against your own insurance policy, you and your insurance company become adverse. Meaning, that your personal injury law firm is trying to recover the maximum amount from your auto insurance and your insurance company wants to pay out as little as possible. That’s correct, you can and will get low-balled by your own insurance company.
Mandatory Arbitration Clauses
The first trick the insurance company already used to reduce your recovery against your own policy is that they inserted a mandatory arbitration clause in your auto insurance policy. You already bargained away your right to a jury trial for your damages. Don’t feel bad. We all agree to these clauses. They are inescapable if you want auto insurance. Unfortunately, juries, especially like those in Cook County, Illinois, can award large verdicts in cases involving severe injuries. In contrast, arbitrators are much more conservative when doling out compensation.
How to spot an arbitration clause
A typical um arbitration clause will look just like the clause below, which I copied from a former client’s policy. The name of the company will not be disclosed:
Arbitration. “Any dispute with respect to whether the insured is legally entitled to recover damages or the amount of damages recoverable by the insured shall be submitted for arbitration to the American Arbitration Association and shall be subject to its rules governing the conduct of arbitration hearings…”
How do you select an arbitrator? Usually set forth in the policy as well. The same policy as above stated that:
“Upon the insured requesting arbitration, each party to the dispute shall select an arbitrator and the 2 arbitrators so named shall select a third arbitrator.”
The arbitrator’s decision could be binding (meaning your stuck with it whatever it is) depending on the language of the policy. It might also provide that cases under a certain value are limited to arbitration but that cases in excess of that value might have the right to a bench (though probably not jury) trial. Meaning, a judge might hear your case, but a jury will not. And as stated above, a jury verdict is what you want, especially in Chicago.
Benefits of an arbitration clause
It wouldn’t be fair to completely diminish the value of an arbitration clause. There are benefits of an arbitration clause to you and your personal injury law firm. For example, it can take eighteen or more months to get to trial. However, the arbitration process moves much quicker. As such, you can obtain a resolution of your case and get access to your money quicker.
Also, the costs of arbitration can be much less than going to trial. That’s a benefit to you because accident victims represented by a personal injury law firm will have to pay the firm back for the expenses it fronted out of the proceeds of the recovery. The more costs, the less you recover.
Finally, arbitration is a less formal process. If you are intimidated by sitting in a courtroom and testifying to a jury, arbitration might be a better forum for you to have your grievance heard.
If you are injured in an accident and want to talk to a personal injury law firm, feel free to contact us for a free consultation at 847-305-4105. We can help you decipher the arbitration clause in your auto insurance policy and decide on the best course you can take to recover against it.