Kenneth Vercammmen represents persons seriously injured in accidents.
All Personal Injury car accident suits and fall down lawsuits are required to participate in a Civil Arbitration at the County Courthouse. In Middlesex County cases, these are held at the Middlesex County Courthouse Building, 1st Floor, 1 John F. Kennedy Square at Bayard Street, New Brunswick, New Jersey.
The Arbitration is held before an attorney selected by the Assignment Judge who will read medical reports and statements submitted by the parties, then listen to testimony from the parties for approximately 15 minutes. The Arbitrator will make a decision as to who is responsible and whether damages should be awarded. Most Personal Injury attorney mail a draft of the Arbitration Statement to their clients ahead of time. We recommend clients notify our office immediately in writing with any changes in the Arbitration Statement. We suggest you visit the accident site during the week prior to Arbitration, and call all of your doctors to confirm all bills are paid.
We previously provided a copy of your Answers to Interrogatories to our clients. Personal injury clients should carefully review the answers to interrogatories before the Arbitration. You should be fully familiar with the information which was supplied by way of answers to interrogatories because many of the Arbitration questions will involve the same information. If you cannot locate your copy of the Answers to the Interrogatories, please call your attorney's office and they should forward to you another copy of the Answers to the Interrogatories.
You must be present in court and prepared to proceed at that time. You should bring all of your papers in connection with your case to Court. Please call your attorney's secretary approximately 24 hours before this hearing to confirm that the court has not adjourned your hearing.
CONTACT DOCTORS TO DETERMINE UNPAID AMOUNTS
Under NJ Law, you personally will be liable for unpaid medical and treatment bills. Many MRI facilities and physical therapy centers fail to provide notice of unpaid bills to clients. They sometimes fail to properly submit to insurance, major medical or other available insurance's. We highly recommend you call all doctors, hospitals and any other medical providers to determine the unpaid bills and confirm when they sent their bill to the insurance companies. If there is an unpaid bill, have the medical provider send a copy to you, and fax a copy to my office. Under the New Jersey Collateral Source Law, a defendant is not liable for any bills unless the bill is first submitted to the insurance companies.
APPEAL OF ARBITRATOR'S DECISION
Either party if unhappy must pay $200.00 to appeal and have a trial. Usually insurance companies appeal to delay payment. If you are unsatisfied with the decision by the arbitrator, you must obtain a money order or prepare a check for $200.00 payable to Treasurer, State of New Jersey. A trial week is scheduled three to four months after the Arbitration. Your doctors will usually require you to pay them up front for their testimony. They will often charge you up front between $2,500.00 and $4,000.00 for testimony. On the trial week, you will have to sit around at the courthouse for several days until a Judge becomes available.
RULE 4:21A. ARBITRATION OF CERTAIN PERSONAL INJURY ACTIONS
4:21A-1. Actions Subject to Arbitration; Notice and Scheduling of Arbitration
(a) Mandatory Arbitration. Arbitration pursuant to this rule is mandatory for applicable cases on Tracks I, II, and III, and only as required by the managing judge for cases on Track IV.
(1) Automobile Negligence Actions. All tort actions arising out of the operation, ownership, maintenance or use of an automobile shall be submitted to arbitration in accordance with these rules.
(2) Other Personal Injury Actions. Except for professional malpractice actions, all actions for personal injury not arising out of the operation, ownership, maintenance or use of an automobile shall be submitted to arbitration in accordance with these rules.
(3) Other Non-Personal Injury Actions. All actions on a book account or instrument of obligation, all personal injury protection claims against plaintiff's insurer, and all other contract and commercial actions that have been screened and identified as appropriate for arbitration shall be submitted to arbitration in accordance with these rules.
(b) Voluntary Arbitration. Any action not subject to mandatory arbitration pursuant to subsections (1), (2), or (3) of paragraph (a) of this rule may be submitted to arbitration on written stipulation of all parties filed with the civil division manager.
(c) Removal From Arbitration. An action assigned to arbitration may be removed therefrom as follows:
(1) Prior to the notice of the scheduling of the case for arbitration or within 15 days thereafter, the case may be removed from arbitration upon submission to the arbitration administrator of a certification stating with specificity that the controversy involves novel legal or unusually complex factual issues or is otherwise ineligible for arbitration pursuant to paragraph (a). A copy of this certification must be provided to all other parties. A party who objects to removal shall so notify the arbitration administrator within ten days after the receipt of the certification, and the matter will then be referred to a judge for determination. The arbitration administrator shall, however, remove the case from arbitration if no objection is made and the reasons for removal certified to are sufficient. The failure of a prior court-ordered mediation may be considered a sufficient reason for removal.
(2) If either party seeks to remove a case from arbitration subsequent to 15 days after the notice of hearing, a formal motion must be made to the Civil Presiding Judge or designee.
(d) Notice of Arbitration; Scheduling; Adjournment. The notice to the parties that the action has been assigned to arbitration shall also specify the time and place of the arbitration hearing and its date, which shall not be earlier than 45 days following the date of the notice. Unless the parties otherwise consent in writing, the hearing shall not be scheduled for a date prior to the end of the applicable discovery period, including any extension thereof. The hearing shall take place, however, no later than 60 days following the expiration of that period, including any extension. Adjournments of the scheduled date shall be permitted only as provided by R. 4:36-3(b).
(e) Pretrial Discovery. The assignment of an action for arbitration shall not affect a party's opportunity to engage in pretrial discovery nor an attorney's professional obligation to do so.
4:21A-3. Settlements; Offer of Judgment
If an action is settled prior to the arbitration hearing, the attorneys shall so report to the civil division manager and an order dismissing the action shall be entered. The provisions of R. 4:58 shall apply to arbitration proceedings except that the references in R. 4:58 to judgment and verdict shall be construed to mean arbitration award or decision, the reference to trial date shall be construed to mean arbitration hearing date, and the reference to cost of suit shall be construed to mean cost of arbitration.
4:21A-4. Conduct of Hearing
(a) Prehearing Submissions. At least 10 days prior to the scheduled hearing each party shall exchange a concise statement of the factual and legal issues, in the form set forth in Appendix XXII-A or XXII-B to these rules, and may exchange relevant documentary evidence. A copy of all documents exchanged shall be submitted to the arbitrator for review on the day of the hearing.
(b) Powers of Arbitrator. The arbitrator shall have the power to issue subpoenas to compel the appearance of witnesses before the panel, to compel production of relevant documentary evidence, to administer oaths and affirmations, to determine the law and facts of the case, and generally to exercise the powers of a court in the management and conduct of the hearing.
(c) Evidence. The arbitrator shall admit all relevant evidence and shall not be bound by the rules of evidence. In lieu of oral testimony, the arbitrator may accept affidavits of witnesses; interrogatories or deposition transcripts; and bills and reports of hospitals, treating medical personnel and other experts provided the party offering the documents shall have made them available to all other parties at least one week prior to the hearing. In the discretion of the arbitrator, police reports, weather reports, wage loss certifications and other documents of generally accepted reliability may be accepted without formal proof.
(d) General Provisions for Hearing. Arbitration hearings shall be conducted in court facilities and no verbatim record shall be made thereof. Witness fees shall be paid as provided for trials in the Superior Court.
(e) Subsequent Use of Proceedings. The arbitrator's findings of fact and conclusions of law shall not be evidential in any subsequent trial de novo, nor shall any testimony given at the arbitration hearing be used for any purpose at such subsequent trial. Nor may the arbitrator be called as a witness in any such subsequent trial.
(f) Failure to Appear. An appearance on behalf of each party is required at the arbitration hearing. If the party claiming damages does not appear, that party's pleading shall be dismissed. If a party defending against a claim of damages does not appear, that party's pleading shall be stricken, the arbitration shall proceed and the non-appearing party shall be deemed to have waived the right to demand a trial de novo. Relief from any order entered pursuant to this rule shall be granted only on motion showing good cause and on such terms as the court may deem appropriate, including litigation expenses and counsel fees incurred for services directly related to the non-appearance.
4:21A-5. Arbitration Award
No later than ten days after the completion of the arbitration hearing, the arbitrator shall file the written award with the civil division manager. The court shall provide a copy thereof to each of the parties. The award shall include a notice of the right to request a trial de novo and the consequences of such a request as provided by R. 4:21A-6.
4:21A-6. Entry of Judgment; Trial De Novo
(a) Appealability. The decision and award of the arbitrator shall not be subject to appeal.
(b) Dismissal. An order shall be entered dismissing the action following the filing of the arbitrator's award unless:
(1) within 30 days after filing of the arbitration award, a party thereto files with the civil division manager and serves on all other parties a notice of rejection of the award and demand for a trial de novo and pays a trial de novo fee as set forth in paragraph (c) of this rule; or
(2) within 50 days after the filing of the arbitration award, the parties submit a consent order to the court detailing the terms of settlement and providing for dismissal of the action or for entry of judgment; or
(3) within 50 days after the filing of the arbitration award, any party moves for confirmation of the arbitration award and entry of judgment thereon. The judgment of confirmation shall include prejudgment interest pursuant to R. 4:42-11(b).
(c) Trial De Novo. An action in which a timely trial de novo has been demanded by any party shall be returned, as to all parties, to the trial calendar for disposition. A trial de novo shall be held within 90 days after the filing and service of the request therefor. A party demanding a trial de novo must tender with the trial de novo request a check payable to the "Treasurer, State of New Jersey" in the amount of $200 towards the arbitrator's fee and may be liable to pay the reasonable costs, including attorney's fees, incurred after rejection of the award by those parties not demanding a trial de novo. Reasonable costs shall be awarded on motion supported by detailed certifications subject to the following limitations:
(1) If a monetary award has been rejected, no costs shall be awarded if the party demanding the trial de novo has obtained a verdict at least 20 percent more favorable than the award.
(2) If the rejected arbitration award denied money damages, no costs shall be awarded if the party demanding the trial de novo has obtained a verdict of at least $250.
(3) The award of attorney's fees shall not exceed $750 in total nor $250 per day.
(4) Compensation for witness costs, including expert witnesses, shall not exceed $500.
(5) If the court in its discretion is satisfied that an award of reasonable costs will result in substantial economic hardship, it may deny an application for costs or award reduced costs.