What is an arbitration?
Arbitration is a method of resolving cases outside of the court system. It is a legal mechanism used to resolve disputes through the aid of a neutral third party who is given the authority to make a legally binding decision. Both parties must agree to be bound by the arbitrator's decision before entering into the process, which consists of written submissions from each party and a hearing to establish the facts of the case.
Because arbitrations are not handled by the court system, the information disclosed and final decision do not become part of the public record. The public is not permitted to attend arbitration hearings as they would a normal court proceeding.
An arbitration hearing is generally less time consuming than a jury trial, and some cases may be decided in favor of a patient who might not win before a jury. Another benefit of arbitration is that the parties are able to set the parameters of the hearing to satisfy individual needs. Some factors that can be adjusted include limiting the number of witnesses that may be called, restricting the arbitrator's award to only cover certain issues, and deciding upon the amount and type of evidence to be provided by each party.
Arbitration is a practice employed in Arizona by the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan. In addition to Kaiser, many individual physicians have their patients sign arbitration agreements on their initial visit.