Arbitration Clauses and Medical Malpractice: What You Need to Know

Medical malpractice cases are complex. We must prove that a doctor’s breach of care caused an injury to recover compensation. In some cases, a medical provider may suggest that the claim be transferred to arbitration for settlement instead of proceeding through the court systems. 

Although there are some advantages of arbitration, there are also many disadvantages. Before considering arbitration to settle a medical malpractice claim, contact experienced New Jersey medical malpractice attorneys to discuss your legal options and rights.

What is Arbitration? 

Arbitration is a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) used to settle disputes. A neutral party, referred to as an arbitrator, listens to evidence presented from each side before deciding how to resolve the dispute. A medical malpractice arbitration proceeding may involve a panel of three arbitrators. 

An arbitration proceeding may seem like a trial, but the rules of evidence that apply in a trial do not apply in an arbitration proceeding. The process is much less formal, and the arbitrator may not be required to apply the same laws as a judge or jury would when deciding the case. 

Arbitration may be non-binding or binding. In binding arbitration, the arbitrator’s decision is final. Non-binding decisions are only final if all parties agree with the arbitrator’s decision.

Using Arbitration to Settle Medical Malpractice Claims

Arbitration can result in quicker results because the parties are not bound by the deadlines and timelines of the court system. It can also be less costly for the parties to resolve a dispute using arbitration compared to litigating a malpractice case. 

However, arbitration is not always the best way to settle a medical malpractice claim. It can result in a much lower settlement for the patient. For example, the arbitration agreement may limit the amount of noneconomic damages the patient may receive. The agreement may also set a maximum award for loss of future income. 

Without a jury, it may also be more difficult to maximize pain and suffering damages. Arbitrators are typically retired judges and medical experts. These individuals usually focus on the medical facts in the case instead of how the malpractice impacted the person’s life or caused physical and emotional pain. It could hurt a patient’s case if the arbitrator focuses only on the medical facts instead of the overall damages caused by medical negligence. 

Signing Arbitration Agreements to Secure Medical Treatment

Some medical practices include a binding arbitration agreement within their forms consenting to treatment. A patient may not even be aware that he or she signed an agreement to submit to binding arbitration until a dispute arises. The liability insurance provider for the doctor points to the agreement and offers a low settlement to resolve the matter. The patient may assume he or she has no choice but to accept the agreement.

Before accepting any settlement offer for a medical malpractice claim, consult an experienced attorney. The agreement to submit to arbitration may not be valid. You might be entitled to file a lawsuit and pursue a malpractice claim in court even if you agreed to arbitration as part of your consent to treatment. 

Contact Our New Jersey Medical Malpractice Attorneys for More Information 

Medical malpractice is a complex area of personal injury law. Our New Jersey medical malpractice attorneys provide free case reviews so that you can learn more about your legal options for holding a doctor or medical provider accountable for negligence or wrongdoing that caused your injury. Schedule a consult with one of our New Jersey medical malpractice attorneys to discuss your legal options.