I want to take a moment today and discuss two methods of “alternative dispute resolution” which is also known as ADR. Instead of going to court and presenting your case in a formal trial setting with the judge and jury, there are two other methods that are commonly employed and may be beneficial. They can also save you a lot of money and time.
Let me first mention something called binding arbitration. Each party agrees to an arbitrator and presents their case to the arbitrator in a much more in formal manner than one will present their case in the trial period during trial there are many evidentiary area rules and procedures that must be followed. In front of an arbitrator, and these rules can be more relaxed.
The first common alternative to trial is arbitration. The rules of the arbitration can be set out in advance and an agreement signed by all parties to the matter. You can also agree to the maximum amount of compensation to be received by the claimant and the least amount of compensation they could receive. This is sometimes called a “High-Low” or “Mini-Max.” Given those parameters, sometimes people are more willing to engage in arbitration knowing their full exposure. A hired judge that both sides have agreed to listens to the case and makes a decision that is binding upon all the parties. Essentially, both sides have hired a private judge to hear that matter and avoid the traditional trial system.
Another method that is commonly employed is mediation. Again, both sides to the dispute agree on a neutral third-party who serves as a mediator between the sides. If you have children, you’ve probably served as a mediator without knowing it! The mediator will sometimes put all the parties in the same room, but more often than not, they will separate the parties into two separate locations and the mediator begins shuttle diplomacy – where they are going back and forth from one room to another trying to negotiate a settlement to the case. For a mediation be successful, both sides have to be willing to bend. An intractable party is not going to be helpful in the mediation setting. Therefore, not all cases are well suited for mediation. However, in some cases, mediation is a good idea because you have some kind of control over the outcome of the case rather than submitting your matter to 12 strangers in a jury box.
The courts have become very fond of alternative dispute resolution methods like arbitration and mediation. In fact, parties to most lawsuits are ordered participate in some kind of dispute resolution prior to going to a formal trial. Trials are expensive and time-consuming. The courts are backed up with many cases, and they don’t have enough judges or time to hear the matters as quickly as they would like. Therefore, it can take a long time to get to trial. It’s also very expensive for the parties to engage in trial. Oftentimes, mediation and arbitration are very good alternatives to resolving your case. Make sure to discuss these options with your attorney.
Whiplash is an injury that occurs as a result of a sudden acceleration/deceleration force, commonly found during a motor vehicle accident. Usually, a stationary car is struck from behind, throwing the victim’s head and neck into hyperextension. A whiplash injury can affect both bone structures and the soft tissues that support the neck, such as intervertebral joints, discs, ligaments, cervical muscles, and nerve roots. Whiplash injuries can be costly, as healing is oftentimes a lengthy and complicated process.
Symptoms of whiplash vary, leading some skeptics to believe that it isn’t so much a real, physical injury than it is a money-making ploy. Investigative studies have determined that while there are always people out there trying to “game the system,” whiplash is legitimate. Symptoms can include stiffness in the neck, headaches, dizziness, burning or prickling sensations and neck, shoulder or back pain. Some cases even result in memory loss, difficulty concentrating, anxiety, irritability, trouble sleeping, fatigue and depression. In most cases, clients don’t feel the whiplash injury until several hours or a day or two after the impact. If there is tremendous pain immediately at the scene, that is usually an indication of a more severe injury such as a herniation or fracture.
There are many different kinds of treatment approaches for whiplash. One may be prescribed pain medication, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, antidepressants, muscle relaxants or a cervical collar, which is generally worn for a few weeks. Oftentimes whiplash injuries require physical therapy, cervical traction or range of motion exercises to heal. Patients who are prescribed a cervical collar and range of motion exercises early on in their treatment are shown to recover more quickly than those who are not; immobilization may lead to stiffness, increased pain, muscle atrophy and decreased blood flow.
It is very important that a whiplash patient is educated about their injury, so as to avoid longer-term whiplash associated disorders. If they fail to follow doctor’s protocol and treatment course, they may actually cause more harm.
Important note: While whiplash injuries are indeed real and can cause serious injury, I hate to say that most insurance companies simply don’t place much “value” on such cases. They lump them into the “soft tissue” category. So while your pain may be very real to you, and your injury very legitimate, don’t expect much compensation from an insurance adjuster (or a jury for that matter).
by Robert Mansour
Robert Mansour is a personal injury lawyer serving Santa Clarita, Valencia,