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Articles > Auto Accidents > Court Suit for Auto Accident Damages

Filing a Small Claims Court Suit for Auto Accident Damages

By : Mike S.
Published here : Nov 03, 2015
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Small claims courts typically adjudicate private disputes that don't involve a lot of money. When you file a small claims court suit for auto accident damages against someone, you'd be basically waiving off any right to claim more than what the court can award. That's why, small claims courts aren't the best option to try out personal injury cases unless they are quite minor.

The reason many cases filed in small claims court fail to get the plaintiff the expected result is that the cases are often badly prepared and presented, which is why the judges often end up making a decision by guesswork – which is not how you want it to be. Here, we tell you how to file a small claims court suit for auto accident damages the right way. Let's get started!

File personal injury cases in formal court. 
Most vehicle accident cases that end up in small claims court involve damage to the concerned vehicle(s) and do not involve personal injury.  They are all hard fought cases, because both parties to the dispute believe quite strongly that the other person was at fault. To win an auto accident case in a small claims court, you must prove that the other driver was negligent or careless, at least much more so than you were. Often this is a matter of common sense as the rules of the road are known to all and it is quite easy to tell if the other driver was at fault. It would bolster your case if the other party was cited for breaking a safety-related law.

Check your state's rules

Do you live in a no-fault state? In that case there will be no-fault insurance laws in place that require any auto accident disputes to be submitted to the no-fault administrative system and not to the court, especially if there are no serious injuries. You can take advantage of a doctrine called as comparative negligence to win these cases, where you have to prove that the other person was at much greater fault than you were for the accident.

So, who can file a claim?

You can file a claim if you're the owner of the vehicle to which damage was done, even though you were not driving it at the time of the accident. The lawsuit can be filed against both, the negligent driver and the registered owner of the car – in case they are both different entities. You can find the owner's name by checking the license number with the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Was there an eyewitness?

It would help a lot if there was a disinterested or a neutral witness to the accident. A disinterested witness can win your case quite easily, especially if they appear to be credible. If there is no such witness, you may have to fall back on a close friend or family member who saw the accident to offer evidence in your support. Of course, this is never the best situation as their objectivity can be easily called into question by the opposing party. Still, having an eyewitness is better than not having one. If the disinterested eyewitness doesn't want to show up in court, perhaps you can get a written statement from them about what they saw and present that as evidence before the judge.

What can help - Police Accident Reports

A police report can be admitted as evidence before the judge in a small claims court. You can get a police report prepared by calling the police in case the other person was more at fault than you were.  An accident report by a police officer investigating the circumstances at the scene of the event is taken very seriously in a small claims court. You can buy this report from the police station, it doesn't cost much – but admit it in court only if it supports what you have to say.

Recovering the money for the damages

When attempting to recover the money for the damages done to your vehicle, you need to make several estimates of the cost of the repairs from reputable repair shops and show them to the judge. At least 3 estimates are called for, to give the judge a good idea. Get a receipt from the repair shop as well. It is important to establish if the person giving you an estimate is competent or not – if not, ignore the estimate given by him and ask someone else.

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