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Arbitration Clauses in Personal Injury Suits

Posted on in Personal Injury

arbitration clauses, McHenry County personal injury attorney, personal injury cases, financial contracts, dispute resolutionFrom waivers during dangerous activities and hospital consent forms, to the electronic “end user license agreements” that pop up during software installation, contracts have become a common part of everyday life. This had led to a proliferation of “arbitration clauses,” a certain type of contractual provision that requires the parties to solve their disputes through an arbitrator rather than taking them to an ordinary court. While these types of clauses are more common in employment contracts or financial contracts, they can also have an impact on personal injury cases. And when they appear, it is important to handle them properly.

How Arbitration Clauses Work

Arbitration clauses are agreements between both sides in a dispute. If a controversy arises, like a personal injury case, the parties will settle it in front of an arbitrator rather than bringing a lawsuit over it. Arbitrators are a sort of private judge. The disputing parties hire arbitrators to hear both sides of a case and then to make their decision just like an ordinary judge would. Unlike judges, they are not bound to the same procedural rules as public courts. This means that they can cut down on the number of steps in the process, which can often lead to a faster, less costly dispute resolution. However, there is also some concern about these clauses.

Ordinarily, one of the most common parts of the process to be reduced is the “discovery” phase. Discovery is the part of the lawsuit in which each side interviews the other and requests documents in order to flesh out their own cases. Many people are concerned that cutting down on discovery can give an unfair advantage to large companies being sued by individuals, because it is likely that the person needs much more information from the company to prove his or her case than the other way around.

The Legality of Arbitration Clauses

This perceived unfairness, combined with the fact that many people do not realize that they are signing away their right to the courts, has led to some concerns about the enforceability of arbitration clauses. This was especially true in personal injury cases because of the particularly severe types of harms for which plaintiffs were attempting to recover.

However, the past five years have seen a string of court decisions upholding the validity of these sorts of clauses and requiring people to have their claims settled in arbitration rather than in court. These include multiple U.S. Supreme Court decisions relating to the clauses in general, as well as an Illinois Supreme Court decision relating specifically to arbitration clauses in personal injury cases.

If you have recently suffered an injury because of another person's careless act, contact a McHenry County personal injury attorney today. Our firm's experienced professionals are here to help you fight for your full, fair compensation.

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