If you have just had an accident and know that someone else caused it, you may be justified in thinking that you should seek compensation for the injuries you have received. Medical bills can be bad enough in normal circumstances, but when you know that someone else’s negligence was responsible for you needing medical treatment, it can be unbearable.
A personal injury claim can be pursued if you think that you can prove who was responsible, and if your claim is quite modest, you should consider using a small claims court. A small claims court may speed up the claims process and make it cheaper, but you may still find that it is useful to engage the services of a personal injury attorney, especially if there are any complications regarding the circumstances of the accident.
Small Claims Court or Civil Court?
You don’t normally pursue a claim for compensation unless you have already made a demand from whoever you consider was responsible. This can be either be done orally or in writing and with or without the help of an attorney. It is only when you are not satisfied with the response of the “defendant” or “defendants” that you may consider taking the next step which is going to court. Whether you should file your personal injury claim in a small claims court or a regular civil court depends on the circumstances of your case.
For instance, if:
- You are only requesting money and not property;
- The amount you are requesting is relatively small (typically less than $5,000, although the exact amount depends on the individual state and sometimes the county or city);
- You wish to pursue the claim by yourself without legal help;
You may find that the small claims court is best.
In any other situation, you would probably be better off making the claim in a regular civil court. Whatever you choose, you will need to make the claim in the right place and within a time frame that is specified by the state where the claim is to be made.
For example, if you use a court that is in a different county or city from where the accident took place or where the defendant resides, the judge may decide that there is no case to be made. Also, the time you are allowed to make a claim will depend on the statute of limitation of the state you are claiming in as well as who the defendant is. For example, you may have three years from the date of the accident if the defendant is a business or private individual, but considerably less if the defendant is a government body.
Advantages of a Small Claims Court
There are several reasons why you, as the plaintiff, may decide to make your claim in a small claims court rather than a regular court. The process is normally simpler to understand, faster and cheaper. Whether you decide to use a personal injury attorney to represent you is left to your judgment, but if there is any doubt in your mind whether you have sufficient evidence to prove who was responsible or there is some doubt as to how much you might have been to blame yourself, then this may prompt you to seek the help of an attorney who will have handled claims like yours many times before.