A new personal injury arbitration scheme is to be offered by the Faculty of Advocates in the new year, as an alternative to taking court action.
The Vice Dean of Faculty, Angela Grahame QC, who revealed the scheme in the Scotsman, said PI solicitors should be able to advise clients about the new option from spring 2017.
Faculty intends the scheme to provide "a viable alternative to delays and increased costs" incurred by taking a case to court. Counsel who specialise in PI work will be trained, examined and accredited as arbitrators by the University of Aberdeen, holding a minimum of Membership of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators. Parties will be able to choose their arbitrator or to have one appointed. The system will be paperless, with 24 hour online access to documents.
Advantages being held out are that arbitration is confidential and "bespoke" – i.e. it can be tailored to meet the particular circumstances of each dispute.
“The Faculty is in an excellent position to conduct these arbitrations, both to represent parties as counsel and to provide arbitrators", Ms Grahame wrote.
“Both pursuers’ firms and insurers are interested in using arbitration in the future. Clyde & Co are promoting this to their clients as an option from 2017."
She added that solicitors interested in getting involved could help to create and mould the scheme "so that it works to everyone’s advantage".
Ms Grahame concedes that in some cases it may be necessary to go to court in order to obtain relevant documents, and that there are limited rights of appeal from an arbitration decision. However, "PI arbitration is just the start of the Faculty’s plans to develop and promote arbitration as an alternative to traditional litigation."
Last month new sheriff court court rules came into force so that claims worth up to £25,000 have to go through "pre-action protocol" procedures before court proceedings are raised, also in an attempt to resolve disputes before they reach court.