AF introduced the quality assessment process during the first quarter of 2021. The reviews are intended to measure the overall quality produced by the membership and to provide AF feedback in our efforts to partner with our membership to improve quality.
We have completed the second quarter Decision Quality Review for 2022. The review showed continued improvement for arbitrator performance over the last three quarters. Arbitrators continued to show strength in the following areas: properly addressing jurisdictional exclusions, entering award data correctly, and entering professionally written decisions.
Provided below is a list of several areas of opportunity for arbitrators.
Provide Thorough Liability Decision Justifications
As with previous reviews, there were liability decisions that were not thoroughly explained. We found template or generic liability decision comments. For example, “All evidence was reviewed, and the evidence does not support which party ran the red light. Liability for this loss could not be determined.” While liability could not be determined, it would have been more effective to write something like, “In their statement, Alpha’s driver said they entered the intersection with the green light, when Beta entered the intersection to their left and struck the side of their vehicle. Beta’s driver stated that their light was green as they entered the intersection, and Alpha drove in front of their vehicle from the right and the vehicles collided. The evidence that was submitted does not support which party ran the red light and liability was not proven for this loss.” While the outcome of the decision remains the same, with neither party proving liability, the second set of comments lets the members know the statements were both reviewed and considered and how evidence did not prove liability for this loss. As the arbitrator, when writing your liability comments, you want to convey what the specific pieces of evidence depicted, which shows the members you reviewed and understood the evidence.
Address All of the Specific Damage Arguments Raised
Many of the damage dispute decisions offered a general explanation to the overall dispute when awarding or reducing damages. Comments that are specific to the disputed damages will make clear the arbitrator’s rationale to all parties. For example, in one case, “Beta” disputed the labor and paint labor for the repair of the rear body panel and the lift gate. Instead of directly responding to the dispute, the arbitrator wrote, “Beta submitted a review that shows a part/parts, and/or services rendered was/were available at lower costs. The report indicates a date reviewed when the part/parts and/or services rendered may have been available. This report does not prove the part/parts and/or services rendered would have been available at the same exact time that parts were ordered by the recovering party. The vehicle inspection would have been completed by a certified appraiser who approved the rates based on the market area prevailing rates. Insufficient supports provided to prove the repair techniques used were unreasonable or unnecessary. Therefore this reduction was not considered.” This statement could apply to almost all auto damage disputes and does not support that the arbitrator reviewed the evidence to determine the body and paint labor allowed was supported. It would have been more effective to write something like, “Beta’s audit listed their body and paint labor reductions; however, the evidence provided does not support the repairs could have been properly completed, based on Beta’s reductions. Alpha’s vehicle photos supported the severity of the rear body panel and lift gate damages. The labor hours noted on the repair estimate are in line with the damages seen in the vehicle photos, supporting the repairs, which were completed.” Again, these comments explain the evidence contents and how the evidence supported the damages.
Enter Descriptive Comments for Embedded Evidence
The expectation is for the arbitrator to offer substantive comments for evidence embedded in the parties’ liability arguments. Entering “reviewed” or “statement” is not sufficient. Comments need to explain what the evidence showed or told in light of the allegation it is intended to support. For example, “Driver statement confirms Alpha entered the intersection with a green light and that Beta ran a red light and struck Alpha’s vehicle.”
AF will continue to share our findings and insights after each review with the filers, responders, and arbitrators. The information provided based on our quarterly review findings is meant to improve the quality of our decisions for all of our membership. AF is grateful for the hard work that our members put into hearing cases.