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Arbitrator found no link between accident and brain injury. Haufe v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co., 2019 N.Y. Slip Op. 33873 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 2019)


In Haufe v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co., the court addressed a motion to vacate an arbitration award related to a motor vehicle accident that occurred on October 23, 2013. One way to resolve a dispute related to a car accident is through arbitration. Arbitration is an alternative dispute resolution process where an impartial third party, known as an arbitrator, hears evidence and arguments from both parties and then makes a binding decision. This method is often faster and less formal than going to court, and it can provide a more private setting for the dispute resolution. For car accident cases, especially those involving insurance claims, arbitration can be a useful tool to achieve a resolution without the lengthy process of litigation.

However, if a party feels that the arbitrator’s decision is unreasonable, they can appeal it in court. In such cases, the appealing party must demonstrate that the arbitrator acted arbitrarily, capriciously, or exceeded their authority. Grounds for appeal can include the arbitrator’s misconduct, bias, refusal to consider pertinent evidence, or making a decision that goes beyond the scope of the issues presented.

In Haufe v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co., the petitioner argued that the arbitrator’s decision, which found no causal connection between his alleged brain injury and the accident, was arbitrary and capricious.

Background Facts
On October 23, 2013, the petitioner was involved in a motor vehicle accident when his car was hit from behind and pushed into another vehicle. He was covered by an automobile insurance policy with LMIC, which included $250,000 per occurrence and $500,000 aggregate for bodily injury, as well as the same coverage limits for SUM benefits. After receiving $50,000 from the offending vehicle’s insurance carrier, the petitioner sought additional compensation through his SUM coverage with LMIC, claiming he sustained significant injuries, including a brain injury.

The arbitration process began on February 7, 2017, when the petitioner served LMIC with a demand for arbitration. The arbitrator ultimately found no causal connection between the petitioner’s alleged brain injury and the accident, which led to the petitioner filing a motion to vacate the arbitration award.

Whether the arbitrator acted arbitrarily, capriciously, or irrationally in finding no causal connection between the petitioner’s alleged brain injury and the motor vehicle accident. The petitioner claimed that the arbitrator either ignored pertinent evidence or refused to hear material evidence, thus demonstrating misconduct.

The court denied the petitioner’s motion to vacate the arbitration award and confirmed the arbitrator’s decision. The court found that the arbitrator’s decision was well-reasoned and based on the evidence submitted during the arbitration process.

The court’s rationale for confirming the arbitrator’s award was based on several key points:

  1. Evidence Review: The arbitrator thoroughly reviewed the medical records, accident reports, and testimony provided. This included records from North Shore University Hospital, Neurological Specialties of Long Island, and other medical professionals who treated the petitioner.
  2. Medical Findings: The arbitrator noted that while the petitioner did sustain injuries to his neck, lower back, and shoulders that were causally related to the accident, there was no substantial evidence to support a causal connection between the petitioner’s brain injury and the accident. Medical evaluations, including an EEG report and psychological assessments, did not indicate significant cognitive deficits or brain injury directly resulting from the accident.
  3. Arbitrator’s Discretion: The court emphasized that the arbitrator acted within his discretion and followed proper procedures in reaching his decision. The use of the term “significant causal connection” by the arbitrator was interpreted as an indication that no substantial evidence supported the petitioner’s claim of brain injury related to the accident.
  4. Petitioner’s Symptoms and Testimonies: Testimonies from the petitioner and his wife regarding symptoms such as irritability and mood changes were not sufficient to establish a direct link to the accident. Additionally, the arbitrator found no stipulation or agreement to exclude specific medical reports, as claimed by the petitioner.
  5. Social Security Disability: The arbitrator also considered that the petitioner qualified for Social Security disability benefits more than three years after the accident, but there was no evidence linking the disability benefits to the motor vehicle accident.

If you or someone you know has experienced complications from a brain injury due to a motor vehicle accident, it is important to seek expert legal guidance. An experienced New York brain injury lawyer can help navigate the complexities of insurance claims and arbitration processes to ensure you receive the compensation you deserve. Protecting your rights and securing your future begins with having a knowledgeable advocate by your side. Contact  Stephen Bilkis & Associates today for a consultation and learn how we can assist you in your case.

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