An Arbitration Forums Review
The purpose of this article is to provide an independent Arbitration Forums (A/F) review. Please be advised that while many of our website contributors are volunteers for A/F, we make every effort to present this review in an unbiased manner.
Arbitration Forums, Inc was founded in 1943 as an effort to meet the needs of insurance companies for a cost-effective and consistent way to resolve disputes amongst themselves. Today the company is based in Tampa, Florida and is the largest subrogation/arbitration service provider in the USA. They boast over 4300 members, essentially most of the property and casualty insurers in the US and certainly all of the large ones. Company membership in the Forum is gained through a brief application; there is no fee.
Membership in Arbitration Forums is very beneficial to the insurance companies as well as to the legal system. Company membership is free and saves untold amounts in litigation costs. Courts are not clogged with a myriad of cases between insurance companies. In fact, insurance companies who are A/F members may not file lawsuits against each other if the case involves an issue that the Forum may hear. Cases may be filed on-line and turnaround is very quick; usually within two months. Regular automobile cases are not appealable, however, and whether a case is won or not is up to the quality of evidence submitted by the insurance adjuster, not an attorney.
Arbitration Forums, Inc hears cases involving automobile accident liability disputes, Personal Injury Protection coverages (PIP), Med Pay coverages, Property, Uninsured Motorist and others. Arbitration Forums, Inc. does charge a fee per case filed. It is usually $50.00 for a simple automobile accident liability dispute (a dispute between the insurance companies over whose driver was at fault). This is very lucrative for the company as they only employ around 250 people and rely on volunteers to hear the vast majority of their cases.
The volunteers who hear these insurance disputes for A/F and make liability decisions are called “panelists”. Panelists must have at least five years of recent relevant claims experience and pass certification tests related to the type of cases they want to qualify to hear. They undergo training and have a vast array of resources available to them through both the Forum and their own employers. Most of these volunteer panelists are either employees of member insurance companies, or have retired from one. Panelists are not permitted to make decisions on cases that involve the insurance company that they are affiliated with.
Arbitration Forum panelists are required to review and render decisions on at least 10 cases per month to remain active. Some hear many more. Many of our website contributors are A/F panelists. Last year (2010), A/F panelists resolved over half a million claims worth a total of over two billion dollars for their member insurance companies. (Source: www.arbfile.org)
How does the information in this review apply to the insurance policy holder who has been involved in an accident? Your insurance company is most likely a member of Arbitration Forums. If you have collision coverage on your vehicle so that your repairs are paid for by your own insurance carrier, but your insurance company and the other cannot agree on whose fault the accident was, your case will be heading to the Forum. The insurance adjuster handling your case will need to do a very thorough job of collecting evidence to win, and you will need to cooperate with that investigation (as your policy requires) if you do not want to be found at fault. Recorded statements are very important; mere adjuster notes regarding a conversation with you are not viewed favorably by panelists. Vehicle and scene photos are very valuable. Witness recorded statements are also very important. Police reports are actually less valuable evidence unless the officer names and quotes a witness or actually witnessed the accident himself.
Arbitration Forums does have rules regarding evidence. Every piece of evidence submitted must be listed on the application or “contention sheet” or it will not be considered. Cases must be filed within the statute of limitations for the state in which the accident occurred. If you are found to be at fault in an A/F case, you cannot appeal the panelist decision unless there was some technical issue, such as the panelist states that there was a witness favorable to you but accidentally put your company’s name in the “loser” slot. You will want to talk to your insurance adjuster to make sure that he or she has obtained and submitted all possible evidence to support you.
Decisions made by Arbitration Forum panelists are only binding on the issue heard. For example, if the case involved property damage then the decision regarding fault only applies to the property damage and related issues, such as rental expenses. It does not apply to personal injury claims arising out of the same accident. You may still pursue your personal injury claim, though you may have to hire an attorney to do so in a courtroom since the insurance company will most likely not voluntarily pay. A judge will not be obligated to make the same decision that the Forum did regarding fault. There may be additional evidence that is found by the time your case goes to trial or the judge may just have a different opinion.
Conversely, however, any finding of fault made by a Judge is binding upon an Arbitration Forums case. If your personal injury claim somehow goes to court before your automobile damage case can be heard by the Forum, and you can show that the Judge found that you were not at fault, the Forum panelist will make the same decision.
Mediation and Arbitration explained.
Statute of Limitations - State by State
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