Avoiding Mandatory Arbitration of Your California Injury Claim

Legal News GavelThere may be many reasons why you, as a person injured in an auto accident, might prefer to litigate your case in court as opposed to arbitration. You may feel that a jury will give you a fairer hearing, or that a jury will be more likely to award the full and fair amount of damages for the harm you’ve suffered. Regardless of the reasons, if you and your California truck accident attorney have identified trial as a better option than arbitration, it is important to avoid traps that will force you to arbitrate your claim.

One example of an injured person who avoided arbitration was Virgil, a warehouse worker for a company that sold fitness equipment. In the summer of 2013, the worker’s supervisor, Charles, instructed him to haul a load of massage chairs and exercise machines to the Sacramento State Fair. The employer sent Virgil to Sacramento in a truck that the employer had rented.

During the trip from San Bernardino County to Sacramento, the truck blew a tire. The blow-out caused Virgil to suffer injuries. Virgil sued the company that owned the rental truck, arguing that the owner had negligently maintained the truck, and that negligent maintenance had caused the blow-out and the man’s related injuries.

The rental company filed a motion to compel arbitration, which would mean that the court would enter an order denying Virgil the opportunity to argue his case in court and instead force him to litigate in an arbitration hearing. The basis for the rental company’s request was the rental contract between the company and Virgil’s employer. As anyone who’s ever rented a car or truck knows, a vehicle rental agreement comes with a long set of terms and conditions. One of the terms in this rental agreement contract was a mandatory arbitration provision. Virgil, however, did not sign that rental contract; his supervisor did. Since Virgil wasn’t a party to the contract, the trial judge in Virgil’s case did not enter an order requiring arbitration of the dispute.

The appeals court later upheld that decision. There are certain situations in which someone who didn’t sign a rental agreement might be bound by its terms, but none of them applied to Virgil’s situation. One is if the injured plaintiff is a third-party beneficiary of the contract. Even though the rental agreement contemplated that Charles might assign someone else (like Virgil) to drive the truck, that assignment did not make Virgil a third-party beneficiary of the rental contract. The rental company also argued that Virgil was an agent of his employer and, based on that, bound by the terms of the agreement. The court ruled he was not. The general rule in California is that people “are not normally bound by an agreement entered into by a corporation in which they have an interest or are employees.” There was nothing about the relationship between Virgil, an ordinary warehouse worker, and his employer that took their relationship outside the boundaries of this general rule.

When you have been hurt in a vehicle accident, you need strong representation to make sure that your case doesn’t get derailed in ways that you do not want. The experienced San Mateo truck accident attorneys at the Law Offices of Galine, Frye, Fitting & Frangos have been helping injured drivers, passengers, and pedestrians for many years. To set up a free consultation with one of our experienced attorneys, contact us at 650-345-8484 or through our website.

More Blog Posts:

Southern California Driver Injured in Intersection Crash Wins Appeal in Legal Action Against Her Underinsured Motorist Insurer, San Mateo Injury Lawyers Blog, published Aug. 23, 2017

California Man Injured in Low-Speed Crash Wins $1M Verdict in ‘Eggshell Plaintiff’ Case, San Mateo Injury Lawyers Blog, published Dec. 20, 2016