Generally, an arbitration clause refers to a stipulation or provision that will bind both parties to resolve a dispute through arbitration. Instead of having a judge, an arbitrator will hear and review all the evidence to reach a decision on whether a plaintiff is entitled to recover damages and how much it will be. You, as a claimant, and the defendant will both have to present your cases to this person. Sometimes, there will be a panel that will act as an arbitrator. Arbitrations also need to happen in the presence of a claimant, the defendant, and the lawyers of both parties. There can also be witnesses if necessary.
Many people do not realize that they are signing an agreement involving an arbitration clause. You can usually find it in billing statements and purchase agreements. Common consumer transactions with the following service providers usually include arbitration clauses:
• Phone service providers
• Lending companies
• Mobile home manufacturers
• Credit card companies
• Car dealerships
Depending on the content of the clause, you may end up signing an agreement that will do any of the following:
• Force you to arbitrate disputes
• Relinquish your right to have a jury trial
• Limit pre-hearing discovery
• Prohibit class action lawsuits
• Prevent you from appealing any possible erroneous interpretation of the law by the defendants and their lawyers
In some cases, the clause may also prevent you from disputing current and past transactions.
Reading The Fine Print
The fine print in an agreement is crucial. Most of the time, companies place arbitration clauses at the last part of a contract. The person signing it, even without understanding all of the sections, may agree to its content.
Arbitration does not necessarily have to be a bad thing. It is possible for a plaintiff to succeed. It is also relatively faster compared to a trial for personal injury claims. If it is non-binding, either party can reject the decision and take it to court. Unfortunately, the majority of contracts are binding.
However, there are still disadvantages that may come with arbitration. That is why you need to read and understand everything before signing an agreement that includes an arbitration clause. If it is a court ruling, it is possible to appeal the outcome. If the decision of the arbitrator is legally binding, you will not have other options to seek compensation.
The other party does not have to share evidence with you before the meeting. Additionally, there are some cases wherein the cost exceeds the expenses you may need for when you have to go to court.
Personal Injury Lawsuits
An agreement can prevent you from suing a company in court. The case has to be subject to arbitration instead. Most outcomes in arbitrations are different from the results of traditional lawsuits. Instead of preparing a case for your claim, your personal injury lawyer will have to collect evidence so they can negotiate.
The good news is that these clauses do not necessarily put an end to possible lawsuits. If you have a good and experienced lawyer, you can get the best possible offer. Since arbitrations are also more relaxed, there is no need to undergo verification procedures. Some evidence that you cannot use in trials may also be allowed. Thus, there’s a higher possibility of convincing the arbitrator to rule in favor of the plaintiff.
The best way to protect yourself against unfair clauses is to read every provision in a contract. Make sure you understand the fine print well. Consider all of your options before deciding if it is worth it to undergo arbitration in case of a disagreement.
But if you end up signing a contract with an arbitration clause and are thinking of filing a case, it is best to speak with a personal injury lawyer in St. Petersburg. They can discuss with you the different procedures you can choose from.
Furthermore, a qualified lawyer can review the agreement carefully. They can check if the contract has terms that put the claimant at a disadvantage or if there is an imbalance in the bargaining powers between the involved parties. They can also question if the clause is enforceable or establish that the agreement is unreasonable. In such cases, the court may decide to invalidate or modify the clause.