Alternative Adjudication

An Evaluation of the New Jersey Automobile Arbitration Program

by Robert J. MacCoun, Edgar Lind, Deborah R. Hensler, David L. Bryant, Patricia A. Ebener

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In 1985, New Jersey implemented a statewide program of mandatory court-administered arbitration of automobile injury lawsuits. In order to evaluate the program, the Institute for Civil Justice (ICJ) examined court records for a random sample of more than 1,000 auto negligence cases filed in either 1983 (pre-arbitration) or 1985 (post-arbitration), and surveyed approximately 300 litigants and 400 attorneys. No significant changes in trial rates or litigation costs were found. However, the program has had some unanticipated effects. Cases that are assigned to the program are significantly less likely to settle privately without a third-party hearing and, on average, take significantly longer to terminate than in the pre-arbitration period. Both litigants and attorneys evaluate arbitration hearings quite favorably. It appears that the program is providing disputants greater access to third-party hearings, but not greater efficiency.

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