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Small Claims Court
When you should you consider going in front of a judge
Going to Small Claims Court the day after the accident might not be the best thing to do.
There is not even enough evidence and enough damages to substantiate the claim. The insurance company might pay you as soon as they receive the claim and confirm that the accident indeed happened.
Small Claims Court should be used when you know that the insurance company is taking an unreasonable amount of time to resolve your damages (car damages and rental cost).
If this is the case, you can probably gather enough information to document how much you are owed (estimates of repair).
Remember that you cannot seek damages above what your Small Claims Court allows. If the maximum recovery you can seek is $4,000, then that is the maximum you would get.
These courts have limited authority and cannot overextend themselves over that.
If your damages exceed your state’s maximum allowed limit of recovery in this court, then you should get an attorney and go to Superior or District Court. Click here to see a list of every state’s small claims court limit.
Filing too soon can put you in a bad position also. For example, if you know how much the damage to your car will cost and you go to court, get a judgment, and then go to fix your car and the mechanic tells you that there is more damage than he first anticipated, you cannot go back and ask for more money.
This also applies to rental expenses. When you get that judgment, the judgment is final. So be careful with the amount of damages because if you do not get it right, you can get less than you actually need to fix your car.
Some people seek damages for bodily injury in Small Claims. This is a really bad strategy. It is better to talk to an attorney.
If you are injured and you go to court for damages, you will not get paid for future pain and suffering, medical bills, or medical expenses. So if you need surgery or your condition worsens, you will not be able to get that compensated for.
Small Claims Court is good for car damages and rental expenses (if you know exactly how much it is going to cost you). This is the reason why you should wait for some time to:
- Determine that you are not hurt and
- Gather all the documents you need (estimates) to show your damages.
You should wait until you have enough evidence. But, remember that every state has statute of limitations for property damage claims (e.g. damages to your car) and bodily injury claims (e.g. injuries to your neck).
The property damage statute of limitations is usually shorter than the bodily injury one. Some states have as short as two years and if you wait past that period of time, you will lose all your rights and get nothing.
Estimating your property damage should not take nearly that long (especially since small claims court is really for lower amount of damages). Do it as soon as you have a certain figure of how much it will cost to get the vehicle fixed.
Read more here:
Traffict Ticket eBook
Speeding Ticket eBook
1. Small Claims Court (Overview)
2. When to go Small Claims Court
3. Important Small Claims Considerations
4. How to argue your Small Claims Case
5. Small Claims Court Legal Argument Part I
6. Small Claims Court Legal Argument Part II
7. Arguing in Small Claims (the Police Report)
8. Small Claims Court and the Auto Damages
9. Small Claims and the Injury Claim
10. Collecting the Small Claims Award
11. Appealing the Small Claims Court decision
Total Loss eBook
Personal Injury eBook
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