Woodland Hills personal injury lawyer Barry P. Goldberg is an expert on all things “Uninsured” and “Underinsured”, including arbitrations. It is a simple enough idea that UM/UIM cases are determined by binding arbitration if the claim cannot be settled. However, the devil is in the details and choosing a fair arbitrator is both difficult and essential.
It is true that many UM/UIM claimants, as well as experienced personal injury attorneys, get bogged down in the UM/UIM claim and arbitration process. That is because there is no recognized statutory procedure for advancing these claims. The insurers have pounced on this ambiguity and essentially delay almost every uninsured and underinsured motorist claim. Once the claimant or attorney figures out how to effectively demand arbitration, the case bogs down again in getting to an actual arbitrator and an arbitration.
Barry P. Goldberg recommends commencing the arbitration process as soon as it appears that the matter cannot be settled. After unequivocally demanding arbitration, it is absolutely essential to recommend a panel of possible arbitrators to the insurer. The response should be time limited. Any experienced personal injury attorney will immediately recognize that selecting the arbitrator can be slowed to a virtual crawl by the insurer. Often the insurer will not respond to the recommended panel. If that occurs, Mr. Goldberg recommends filing an immediate Petition to Compel Arbitration, followed by a Motion to Select an Arbitrator.
The other insurer tactic is to unilaterally reject an insured’s list of proposed arbitrators no matter what. Instead, the insurer will propose a list of—- let’s just say— defense biased arbitrators. These lists are approved by an insurance company employee who has collected substantial data that would suggest 1) the arbitrator gives small awards, or 2) will give the insurer a complete defense verdict. That said, you are only looking for a “level playing field.” So, a gem might actually reside in the insurer’s approved list.
Do Your Homework!
Most established arbitrators belong to a mediation service and have a track record that can be checked. Call friends and colleagues and ask, “Do you know Judge _________” and is he fair? Recently, our office selected an arbitrator that was a well-known defense judge. I personally spoke with a plaintiff’s attorney who said he was very fair and would use him again, and again!
Finally, most arbitrators will give a disclosure before the appointment has been finalized—-Read it! Of course, most arbitrators have done a substantial amount of work for big insurers. However, look for defense verdicts. Look for prominent plaintiff’s firms that use that arbitrator. Finally, call some of the plaintiff’s attorneys and ask—most attorneys are willing to give you a few minutes. If the disclosure does not meet with your approval, you still have a limited time to reject the arbitrator and start over again!