New Jersey code § 2A:23A-20 requires
personal injury cases be submitted to arbitration when the amount in dispute
is $20,000 or less. Arbitration is a form of alternative dispute resolution intended
to resolve a parties’ issues outside of Court. The process is less complex
and formal than Court, and often can be concluded more quickly and less expensively.
Instead of a judge or a jury, an arbitrator or panel of arbitrators,
hears the evidence, then makes a decision and issues an award.
Arbitrators in New Jersey are retired superior court judges or attorneys who have
at least seven years experience in their particular area of the law. They are chosen
by the Assignment Judge, based on recommendations from the bar association.
There are standard procedures for arbitration, with both sides being given a chance
to present their case, submit evidence, and make arguments. Unlike mediation, arbitration
is an adversarial process with the parties working against each other.
The arbitrator decides who is right and who is wrong and does not attempt to find
a middle ground in order to make both parties happy. The arbitrator’s decision
is non-binding, meaning if a party is unhappy with the decision, they may reject
the award and choose to go to Court.