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Should I go to small claims court?
(Yorba Linda, CA, USA)
I was going down the traveling aisle in a department store parking lot when a driver backed into the passenger side of my car. She got out the car and quickly apologized for the damage and assured me "well that's what insurance is for." There was another passenger in my car (my cousin) and my mom witnessed the whole accident from the entrance of the store.
Since at the time there was no dispute about who was at fault I contacted her insurance (not mine) and they took my statement. Never would I have guessed that WEEKS later I would be found partly responsible! I couldn't believe it. That's when I contacted my Insurance company.
Now we are at the stage of arbitration. My adjuster recently called and told me that my recorded statement was lost and and she needs a written statement with a diagram. Well thats fine. I just called MY insurance this morning for general information just to find out they haven't even taken a statement from the other driver. When I asker my adjuster why she hadn't taken a statement from my cousin and mom her response is that they are family and therefore will have biased accounts of the incident. WHAT? They are still witnesses are they not?
I really feel that my side will not be fairly represented in arbitration. I guess my question to you is that should I go to small claims court to have a better chance at winning this? I've heard the facts/rumors about parking lot claims but there was no way I could have avoided her especially with her zipping out of her parking spot so quickly?
What do you suggest? I never imagined that I would possibly have to come out of pocket for something I don't feel I'm at fault for. Please help.
You have a difficult situation here. It really does not sound good that your adjuster is missing the statements. As a prior adjuster (and as a judge in arbitration) I can tell you that the file with "less" documents usually loses.
Regarding the witnesses, you are correct. They are witnesses. However, their credibility might be diminished by the family ties. The credibility question must be answer by the neutral party and should not be a decision your adjuster takes.
The insurance companies will go to arbitration regardless of what you decide to do. You can try to persuade a judge, this might be a better approach for you, depending on how comfortable you are speaking to the court.
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