Mandatory Arbitration Agreements May Prevent Your Day in Court

Arbitration is a method of resolving differences between two parties that doesn’t involve litigation in court. By itself arbitration is not necessarily bad. It depends on what rules are set up to govern the arbitration and whether the parties fully and knowingly agreed to use arbitration as a means to avoid a full-blown trial in court. Many people are finding their legal claims are being forced into arbitration, and away from court, against their will.

If you’ve never heard of arbitration, consider yourself lucky. Most of us hear about it when it’s too late. You want to protect your legal rights; you don’t want to discover that you waived your rights to join a class action or sue the defendant because of a supposed arbitration agreement you allegedly accepted.

These binding, or forced, arbitration agreements are literally all over the place. If you sign up for a credit card, open a bank account, buy a car, invest money, fill out nursing home paperwork, accept a job offer or sign a contract, there’s a very good chance that somewhere in the fine print there’s a clause stating you agreeing not to sue the other party but will resolve a potential dispute in an arbitration instead.

As you enter a business or retail store, you might want to look around by the door to see if there is any statement posted in small letters. It might state that by entering the premises you’re binding yourself to arbitration in case there are legal disputes (such as compensation due to injuries caused by a slip and fall) between you and the business.

Given how much time and expense a trial could take, you may ask, what’s so bad about arbitration?

  • Trials and the legal process are run by court rules, statutes and state and federal Constitutions. Arbitrations are run by rules set by the party writing the agreement.
  • Those rules often include a limited ability to seek evidence from the opposing party and that the losing party would pay all the costs and legal fees of the successful party.
  • The arbitrator, or a panel of arbitrators, are usually chosen by the business, so these individuals have an incentive to decide in favor of the business to increase the chances of working on more arbitration cases and making more money.
  • It can be very difficult to challenge the legality of the arbitration agreement or the arbitration decision in court.

As arbitration clauses have become more popular and we hear about consumers who have gotten the short end of the legal stick in arbitration hearings, there has begun to be “push back” against arbitration.

  • In New Jersey there have been some recent court decisions that may indicate there will be more judicial review of arbitration clauses that conflict with public policy, according to com.
  • There are also bills pending in the state legislature that would limit consumer arbitration agreements.

If you or a loved one has been injured due to a slip and fall or another injury in New Jersey, schedule a free consultation with our office by calling us at F:P:Sub:Phone} or by using our online quick connect form. Contact us so you can learn about your legal rights, discuss whether an arbitration agreement is involved and take action to protect your rights to compensation for your injuries.