Decision Quality Review: Insights for Arbitrators

This year, AF implemented a new quarterly quality assessment process. The process is intended to measure the overall quality produced by the membership and to provide AF feedback on our efforts to partner with the membership to improve quality. 

The assessment:
  • Evaluates the filing, response, decision, and any administrative actions by AF (i.e., phone support, decision pre-publication review, post-decision inquiry handling, etc.).
  • Encompasses questions to identify specific performance drivers and actionable insights for filers, responders, and arbitrators.
The first quarter Decision Quality review for 2021 has been completed. The review provided insights that will help improve decision quality. Insights for filers and responders were shared in the June 2021 E-Bulletin. The insights below are specifically for arbitrators:
  • Address arguments and evidence of all parties, not just the prevailing party.

    Decisions tend to focus on the prevailing party’s case only. That is a good start, of course, but it is equally important to explain to the other party(ies) why they did not prevail. The written decision explanation should address the arguments and evidence of all the parties involved in the hearing and provide the “why” behind the decision rendered.    
  • Render a “word versus word” decision (no award) only when truly warranted; consider all the evidence, not just the driver statements.

    There is often evidence other than the statements that may tip the scale in one party’s favor, or support one driver’s version as being more likely. It is important to remember that the standard of proof in arbitration is “preponderance of the evidence” not “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
  • Consider/apply comparative negligence when supported.

    Not all cases involve zero or one hundred percent liability decisions. Recovering and Responding companies will often provide liability contentions regarding comparative negligence by each driver. In many instances, there is evidence that could bolster a party’s case. Examples would be vehicle damage location photographs and/or scene photographs showing the vehicle positions at rest. 
  • Address each disputed damage type without using a template response, such as “filer inspected” or “industry standards” as the basis of the award.

    It is important to avoid using template wording, which is often seen in damage dispute decisions. Copying and pasting the same template wording into multiple decisions negatively affects quality and gives the impression that the arguments and rebuttals of the parties have not been properly considered or addressed. Along those same lines, avoid the use of phrases, such as “industry standard” (for example, in the case of the number of rental days allowed per repair hour), unless there is evidence to prove that such a standard exists, and stating that the Recovering Party proved damages simply because they inspected the vehicle.