Earlier this month, a California appellate court issued a written opinion in a case requiring the court to determine if a contract signed by an employee agreeing to arbitrate any claims against her employer was enforceable. While the case arose in the employment context, it is relevant to California accident victims in that it broadly discusses the enforceability of arbitration clauses, which come into play in many personal injury cases.
What Is Arbitration?
Arbitration is an alternative to the court system, whereby parties agree to submit the case to an arbitrator rather than file a case in the court system. There are pros and cons to arbitration, but it is generally believed that arbitration favors the party writing the contract – usually a corporation – over the individual asked to sign the contract.
The pros of arbitration are that an arbitrated claim will be resolved faster and will be less expensive than filing a case through the court system. However, arbitration presents a serious concern for personal injury victims.
The primary concern with arbitration is that the party that writes the contract – usually the defendant in a California personal injury case – chooses which arbitrator will resolve any future conflict that may arise. In theory, since all arbitrators are supposed to be neutral, it should not matter which arbitrator hears a case; however, in reality, some arbitrators are more corporation-friendly, and naturally, when given the choice, a corporation will choose the most favorable forum available. This means that a personal injury plaintiff may be at a disadvantage when arbitrating their claim.
The Court’s Analysis of an Arbitration Clause
The facts of the case are not particularly relevant to California personal injury cases. What is relevant, however, is the court’s discussion of when arbitration clauses will be enforced by the courts.
The court began its analysis by noting that arbitration agreements, when valid, are favored because they decrease the burden on the court system. However, in order to be valid, there must be “mutual assent,” meaning that both parties must have agreed to arbitrate the specific claim at issue. The court then explained that the burden to prove that a valid agreement exists rests with the party seeking to compel arbitration.
The court continued to explain that, if a valid agreement is found to exist, the burden then shifts to the opposing party to prove a defense to the enforcement of the agreement. There are various defenses to an arbitration agreement, and anyone injured in a California accident who believes they may have signed an agreement to arbitrate their claim should reach out to an attorney to determine which options are available.
Have You Been Injured in a California Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a California accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. This may be the case even if you or a loved one signed an arbitration agreement on your behalf. However, the named defendants will likely try to compel arbitration, potentially reducing your chances of success. The dedicated California personal injury attorneys at Sharifi Firm have extensive experience representing victims in all types of cases, including premises liability cases, workplace injury cases, and mass-transit accidents. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation with a personal injury attorney, call 866-422-7222 today.
More Blog Posts:
California Court Discusses Potentially Conflicting Witness Testimony, Southern California Injury Lawyer Blog, January 5, 2018
Hit-and-Run Accidents in Southern California, Southern California Injury Lawyer Blog, January 19, 2018