Arbitration is a trial like proceeding usually held by a private company such as American Arbitration Association or Judicate West. Arbitration follows many of the same proceedings as trial, including written discovery and depositions. The arbitrator may be a retired judge or an experienced attorney. Unlike trial, arbitration does not involve a jury and if the arbitration is non-binding the decision can be challenged in court.
Arbitration is not usually something the parties will elect to do voluntarily as the cost is often not any less than trial. However there are some instances where the parties will be compelled to arbitrate, such as when a motorist makes an uninsured motorist claim on their own insurance. Many professionals, such as doctors and lawyers, also have arbitration clauses written into their contracts compelling you to arbitrate any claims against them before proceeding to trial.
The driver who hit me fled the scene or was not insured and has no assets, what do I do now?
You may still be able to recover your damages if your own policy has an uninsured/under-insured motorist (“UM” and “UIM,” respectively) policy. You must first exhaust any worker’s compensation policies that may be in effect if you were on the job at the time of the injury. If the person who struck you was insured, but their policy limit is less than your UIM limits, you must also prove to your insurance that you obtained the policy limits of the at-fault driver’s insurance.
In the case of a hit and run the accident must be reported within 24 hours to the proper authorities—e.g., the highway patrol—of the jurisdiction in which the accident occurred. In addition the injured party, or their heirs, must send a statement within thirty days to the insurer which describes the accident and states that there is a cause of action from the accident against parties whose identity is unknown.
There are other rules governing the activation of an uninsured/under-insured policy. For example, if the vehicle that struck you was owned by you, you cannot make a UM claim unless it was being operated without your permission and you have reported it stolen to the police. You also can’t make a UM/UIM claim if you were injured in another person’s vehicle and they have a UM/UIM policy of equal coverage. If your policy had a medical payment policy that has been paying any medical bills the UM/UIM claim will be reduced by this amount.
Given the foregoing, a demand for arbitration must be made on your own insurance and arbitration, rather than trial, will proceed.
West’s Ann.Cal.Ins.Code § 11580.2
39A Cal. Jur. 3d Insurance Contracts § 514