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Most counties in Washington have mandatory arbitration programs. Mandatory arbitration programs are meant to clear some of the congestion in the superior courts.

The mandatory arbitration rules provide that cases involving less than $50,000.00 need to be arbitrated. If you look at the rules more closely the jurisdictional limit is actually more expansive. The $50,000.00 limit applies on a per-claim, per-party basis.

If a husband and wife are involved in a chain-reaction motor vehicle accident where they are hit first by Car "A" and then impacted a second time because Car "B" runs into Car "A" they potentially could recover $100,000.00 each from Drivers "A" and "B".

Based on the cost of trying versus arbitrating cases I think it makes economic sense for clients of cases involving less than $100,000.00 in damages to arbitrate rather than try their cases. There are several bases for this opinion.

First, witnesses are allowed to testify by way of declaration at arbitration. This means that they don’t need to show up and in the case of experts they can simply submit a written report. Due to the uncertainty of when the courts can actually conduct trials this saves an enormous amount of money particularly for both medical and liability experts.

Second, arbitrations are typically conducted within a period of six months of the date suit is filed. On the other hand trials typically take place 18 months or more after suit is filed.

I have have two goals. The first is to maximize the net amount clients recover. The second is to get the client’s money in the client’s hands as quickly as possible.

Mandatory arbitration goes a long way (in cases where the damages are under $100,000.00) toward accomplishing these goals.

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