Arbitration is mandatory for civil cases seeking money damages between $10,000 and $50,000. A panel of three arbitrators conducts the arbitration hearing, allowing the parties to present all facts, evidence, and law before rendering an award. The arbitration award is not binding for 30 days, during which time any party present at the arbitration hearing may "reject" the award, pay a rejection fee, and then proceed to a trial before a judge or jury. Illinois Supreme Court Rules 86 through 95 and Chapter 7, Part 1 of the Local Court Rules govern the mandatory arbitration program.
The success of the arbitration program lies in the fact that most cases are resolved before the arbitration hearing, with a relatively small number of cases actually proceeding to hearing. After the hearing, cases are either dismissed or set for trial; many cases settle without the need for a trial. Every year less than four percent of the cases filed result in a trial.