December 2018 E-Bulletin for Arbitrators

This month's E-Bulletin topics include:

  1. Expand Your Arbitrator Experience!
  2. Results Are In: You Make the Call Case Scenario
  3. Deferment Requests – To Grant or Not
  4. Take Some R & R: Remember Resources!
  5. Towing and Storage and Rental, Oh My!
  6. New Resource: Salvage Invoice Job Aid!
  7. Neutrality, Privacy, and Confidentiality Statement

Expand Your Arbitrator Experience!

Image of a hand seeming to touch a digital stream of dataThe ability to request a three-person panel and/or personal appearance in TRS is scheduled to be implemented on February 17, 2019. This functionality, along with the elimination of the current dollar filing threshold, will significantly increase the number of TRS-eligible cases and TRS usage.

If you are an arbitrator interested in hearing cases as part of a three-person panel or involving a personal appearance, please advise your AF Arbitration Manager, so he or she can update your profile.

Some useful information:
  • Participation on a three-person panel provides a great learning and growth opportunity by allowing you to discuss a case with peer arbitrators from different companies across the country.
  • All three-person panel and personally represented cases are heard telephonically on a date/time acceptable by the arbitrators and/or appearing representative.
  • The volume of personal appearances in the Auto program has historically been nominal, and we do not foresee a change simply because the functionality exists. Most member companies do not see the need to have a representative take the time to appear before the arbitrator(s) when the case is supposed to “speak for itself.”
  • The duration of appearances is not long. Rule 3-7 provides that no oral arguments are allowed; a party may only clarify, at the arbitrator’s request, its arguments and/or evidence. If the arbitrator(s) has no questions, the call is ended.
  • A three-person panel may only be requested if the Total Company-Paid Damages are $7,500 or higher.
  • The duration of a three-person panel hearing will vary based on the complexity of the case, but the collaborative time needed will be limited because the arbitrators will thoroughly review the case prior to the call. The purpose of the hearing is to deliberate and reach a final decision.
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Results Are In: You Make the Call Case Scenario

Thank you to those who participated in our “You Make the Call” exercise. The results are in, and we want to share them with you. View the original article with the case scenario.
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The burden of proof in arbitration is a preponderance, or greater weight, of the evidence. Given the Respondent’s lack of an answer, there is nothing to contradict the statement submitted by the Applicant; it should be accepted as an accurate account of what occurred. The Applicant also furnished acceptable evidence to support its damages. The majority of you accurately applied the preponderance of evidence standard and returned a 100% award.
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The recorded statement submitted by the Respondent contradicts the statement of the Applicant’s driver. Absent compelling evidence to support one driver’s version over the other, neither statement can be accepted as an accurate account of what occurred. The majority of you accurately applied the preponderance of evidence standard and returned a zero award.
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The combination of the Respondent driver’s detail that he was operating a dump truck, and the clearly compelling visual of the street sign directing drivers to allow larger vehicles to turn wide, favors the Respondent’s position. The majority of you accurately applied the preponderance of evidence standard and returned a zero award.
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Deferment Requests – To Grant or Not

A deferment is a postponement of a case being heard for one year from the date of filing. Per Rule 2-10, a deferment request is handled in one of two ways:
  • The filing company is systematically granted. Typically the Applicant has filed the arbitration to toll the Statute of Limitations.
  • A responding company is systematically challenged. This is simply to ensure the request is appropriate, not just a delay tactic. (Exception is NYPIP where request is automatically granted if Case Index Number is entered where provided.)
Image of two different colored doors side by sideWhen hearing a deferment challenge, the requesting party's Deferment Justification should tell you why the arbitration case should not be heard at the present time. The most common reasons for requesting a deferment, primarily in the PIP forum, are:
  • Policy limits with a companion BI claim/suit pending, or
  • Pending coverage or fraud investigation
The requesting party should provide evidence to support its policy limit and need for deferment. Examples of evidence could include a letter of attorney representation, litigation documentation, or even a police report noting injury or that a party was transported from the scene.

However, evidence may not always be available. In these cases, it is still appropriate to grant the deferment request when the requesting party provides proof of its policy limits and written notice of the existence of a pending claim or suit arising out of the same accident, occurrence, or insured event.
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Take Some R & R: Remember Resources!

We provide a number of resources to assist you as you hear cases. To locate these resources, navigate to Arbitrator Resources:

We want to highlight three resources that you may find especially helpful:
  1. The Online Decision Entry Guide is the best single resource to help you access, hear, and enter your decisions in Online Filing (OLF). It clarifies what is expected in each specific area of the OLF decision.
  2. Traffic Crash Reports and Overlay Forms is a link to a national database of police reports and decoders. As an arbitrator, you may access the overlay/decoder when reviewing a coded police report. AF has always furnished this item at the direction of the membership, and we continue to do so with the remote hearing process.   
  3. The Credit for Prior Payments job aid shows you where to look to discover a potential discrepancy regarding prior payments and how to handle it. It also provides images of proof that a prior payment was actually paid (not just issued) to help as you review the Respondent’s proofs. 
Thank you for the work you do every day to help the membership reduce the turnaround time and claim-handling costs of resolving disputes.
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Towing and Storage and Rental, Oh My!

Image of people holding a sign that says Look to the EvidenceAuto Forum disputes involving rental, towing and storage, parts, and total losses continue to rise.
Our membership relies on you, our member arbitrators, to resolve these disputes. We want to remind you that, as an arbitrator, you have the authority to decide all types of disputes. Decisions are based solely on the quality of contentions raised and the strength of the evidence presented by the involved parties.

Arbitrators do not need to have specialized knowledge to render a decision. Keeping in mind the equation of Contentions + Evidence = Fact, arbitrators can render reasonable decisions regardless of the dispute raised.

AF and the member companies greatly appreciate your service as an arbitrator, as your active participation is critical to the success of the arbitration process. We offer the following resources to assist you:
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New Resource: Salvage Invoice Job Aid!

Is it reasonable to have a salvage sale that results in the Applicant paying the vendor, instead of achieving a recovery? Can fees listed on the salvage invoice be reasonably related to the subrogation claim? 

Image of cars in a salvage yardFind the answer to this and other pressing questions in our new How to Review Salvage Invoices job aid, available at Arbitrator Resources. This document highlights where to find key information and offers guidance as you decide the following disputed issues related to handling and disposition of salvage: duration of storage, proof of damages, necessity of fees/charges, and an amount due to the salvage company after the salvage sale.

These current arbitrator resources have also been updated accordingly:
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Neutrality, Privacy, and Confidentiality Statement

Objectivity and neutrality are the foundations of a credible arbitration system. All decisions must be based solely on the arguments made in the contentions and the evidence submitted by the parties to avoid any perception of bias on the part of the arbitrator.

In addition, an arbitrator must excuse himself/herself from hearing a case if he or she has a direct or indirect interest in the outcome (financial, business, personal, or professional). We also recommend that arbitrators excuse themselves from hearing a case that involves a prior co-worker or claim adversary if their decision could create an appearance of impropriety.

Image of an open lock over binary codeAF policies also help ensure the privacy and confidentiality of our membership's data. The Neutrality, Privacy, and Confidentiality Statement reinforces to arbitrators that the information submitted by parties is private and confidential and may only be used to resolve the dispute. It may not be copied or printed or used for any other purpose.

Neutrality, Privacy, and Confidentiality Statement
This decision is according to my understanding of the current local law and the facts presented. I may not render a decision on a case where my company is or I am directly or indirectly interested, or where there is even an appearance of bias. Also, I understand as an arbitrator, I will have access to confidential material involving company and/or insured information. All information related to this case will be utilized for the sole purpose of rendering this decision. I agree to protect the privacy, security, and confidentiality of all information related to this case. I affirm that I have read and understood the above.

For these reasons, arbitrators acknowledge the Neutrality, Privacy, and Confidentiality Statement on each case they hear.
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