Can I represent myself in Allegheny County Arbitration?

Q: Is it recommended that I have a lawyer when going to an Allegheny County arbitration hearing? This hearing is for an appeal to a small claims court ruling.

A: It is highly recommended if you can afford it. It is called Arbitration and has a jurisdictional limit of claims 50K and lower and your case is heard by a panel of three attorneys instead of a judge or formal. Although it appears somewhat less formal than a judge or jury setting, the rules of civil procedure and evidence still apply. The person who knows these rules has the upper hand which generally means those who are represented will do better. This is especially true if the other side has an attorney. If that is the case, the other attorney can limit your testimony with objections based on the rules of evidence, such as foundation, hearsay, lack of discovery notice, etc. If the other side has no attorney, some arbitration panels will help you and the other litigant sort out your problem, and try to do justice, although don’t take that for granted. Even if the Arbitration Board is that gracious, you still may lose your case based on your lack of knowledge of the rules of procedure and rules of evidence.

If you feel like this issue relates to you, or a problem that you are experiencing, please contact me so that we can discuss your situation.