Arbitration v. Trial – What’s the difference?

In a previous video I discussed the differences between small claims court and the court of common pleas.  In this video I will explore the differences between mandatory arbitration and a jury trial through the Court of Common Pleas.

In Pennsylvania, if your matter is solely for money damages and is valued at less than $50,000 you are required to participate in arbitration.  An arbitration differs significantly from a jury trial and there are both pros and cons to having your matter decided in an arbitration.  In an arbitration, a panel of 3 local lawyers will decide the outcome of your case.   An arbitration will likely get scheduled much quicker than a jury trial and the arbitration itself typically concludes within one day.  It is also generally less costly in terms of attorneys’ fees and takes place in a relatively informal setting. Another benefit of arbitration is that if you should lose at arbitration, you have an automatic right to appeal to the Court of Common Pleas for a jury or bench trial.

There are also several downsides to an arbitration.  While you might think it would be preferable to have attorneys decide your case, those attorneys may not have experience with the particular legal issues involved in your matter.  While the same is true for a jury, a jury receives specific and lengthy instructions on the legal issues involved in your case before deliberating and generally has the opportunity to ask the presiding judge questions during deliberations.

Although arbitrations are mandatary for matters valued at less than $50,000, the parties to a lawsuit that is valued at greater than $50,000 can also agree to take the matter to a private arbitration.   Private arbitrations are similar to arbitrations run through the county however the parties are responsible for the cost of a private arbitration would could cost several thousands of dollars.

If you have questions regarding a civil lawsuit contact me today for a free no obligation case evaluation.