Arbitration is an alternate form of litigation sometimes used for personal injury cases. In Washington State, arbitration is mandatory when the claim for injury is $100,000 or less.
There are some differences between arbitration and jury trial. For instance, if your case is going to trial it would most likely last two or more days, depending on the number of exhibits and witnesses presented. Arbitration is much shorter and will typically be resolved within one day.
In a jury trial, the judge will referee the jury, and the jury decides the outcome of your case. In contrast, the arbitrator makes all of the decisions about your case, including compensation.
In Washington, if your case goes to a jury trial, a trial judge is automatically assigned. If a car accident case is arbitrated, you and your attorney are involved in selecting the arbitrator, most of whom are experienced personal injury attorneys or retired judges.
Trials are at the courthouse in the county in which you file the claim. They are open to the public, recorded, and typically several court staff members attend. Personal injury arbitrations are not recorded and are usually held in a private conference room accessible only to those directly involved in the case.
The results of a jury trial are binding, but a legal error can result in an appeal to a higher court. Arbitrations, however, can be either binding or non-binding depending on the case. A non-binding arbitration allows the flexibility to file an appeal and have the case retried before a jury.
Litigation in either venue is expensive, but arbitration can cost considerably less than a jury trial.