State Legislature Increases Mandatory Arbitration Limits to $100,000
After several unsuccessful attempts, the Washington state legislature recently passed a bill increasing the state’s mandatory arbitration limits from $50,000.00 to $100,000.00.
What exactly is mandatory arbitration, you may ask, and why should I care? Well, Washington State has a mandatory arbitration program for situations where a lawsuit could be resolved in a more informal manner, by an arbitrator outside of the courtroom instead of a trial by jury, because the case “value” is smaller. The state has a set of mandatory arbitration rules (MARs) the parties must follow, and each county can have it its own subset of local arbitration rules.
This new law, which goes into effect in September, is a big deal. Now an injured person has more options if they are forced to file a lawsuit. Why choose arbitration? Typically, mandatory arbitration has a much shorter overall timeline, there are less complicated rules regarding expert witnesses and documents, and the hearing is held by an attorney mutually picked by the parties. With this new law, certain cases will get resolved faster and take some pressure off crowded courts.
While mandatory arbitration can be an effective way to resolve a lawsuit, it isn’t binding. If either party is unhappy with the result, then either side can file what’s called a “Trial De Novo,” or a ”do-over”, which puts the case right back into court for trial. But, it’s risky: if the party who files a request for trial de novo does not do better in court than the arbitrator’s award, then that party is on the hook for the other side’s actual attorney fees and costs.
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