As a Chicago personal injury attorney with many years of experience, I have filed lawsuits against countless defendants, alleging negligence, medical malpractice, defective products and every other tort imaginable. Invariably, the attorneys hired by the defendant’s insurance company file what is known as a “jury demand”. What this means is that the defendant insists that the case be tried before a jury and not just a judge. The reason for this tactic is to make it as difficult and expensive as possible for the plaintiff to win. In conservative jurisdictions such as DuPage County, Illinois, the insurance companies are of the belief that these “anti lawsuit” residents are more likely to send the plaintiff home without compensation on that basis alone. In more liberal counties such as Cook, (Chicago) Illinois the defense view is just the opposite. Regardless of the location, medical malpractice insurance companies want their cases tried before a jury, thinking that it is much harder for a plaintiff to convince 12 jurors to award them money as compared to one judge.
During these difficult economic times both insurance companies and plaintiff’s attorneys have become extremely cost conscious which has created a “cottage industry” known as Alternative Dispute Resolution or “ADR”. ADR is basically a private “court” where highly experienced retired judges are hired to act as arbitrators. The parties to a personal injury lawsuit pending in the official court system agree to dismiss the lawsuit and submit it to ADR. The cost of the proceeding including the arbitrators fees are generally split between the parties.
You might ask yourself, given the fact that the judges of our court system are paid a salary by the taxpayers why should I pay a retired judge to perform the same process? The following is a list of the many reasons why each side is drawn to this new Chicago injury practice:
1. The parties are able to select a judge that they both agree upon. This is very important as predictability replaces “pot luck”.
2. The arbitration is scheduled on a date convenient to all as opposed to the crowded court system selecting a date agreeable to it!
3. The rules of evidence are relaxed which saves a tremendous amount of time and money. Foundational and non-essential witnesses are avoided, medical and other records are routinely submitted to the arbitrator for consideration.
4. The expert witness testimony of physicians normally procured at great expense is avoided.
5. The emotions of jurors which can help or hurt both sides are avoided.
6. Plaintiffs’ attorneys trial time and defense legal fees are greatly reduced.
7. The prejudicial attitudes of jurors are eliminated.
8. Extreme verdicts in either direction disappear.
There is generally no appeal of the arbitrator’s decision which can be good or bad depending upon the result. In either case the decision is final and the parties go on with their lives.
The next time you consider going to trial in a personal injury case remember that ADR may be “the way to go”?