People in California who have been through a minor car accident probably just want the whole ordeal to be over and done with as soon as possible. However, they probably don’t want to give up their rights and get stuck paying significant car repair bills, medical bills, insurance premiums and other costs stemming from the accident. When the other parties involved in the accident or insurance companies won’t cooperate, sometimes taking them to court is the only solution.
Fortunately, California small claims courts offer a somewhat simple solution to people in these situations where the costs and damages are not extraordinary. Any person seeking less than $10,000 in damages stemming from a car accident can bring their case in a small claims court. Small claims courts offer victims and their attorneys the venue to bring their cases without some of the more involved processes required in civil court. In general, the filing fee for small claims court is less, generally no greater than $75, and the litany of motions that may be required in civil court for high-dollar cases are not necessary. In addition, people may expect to get their day in small claims court quicker than they would in civil court. The average time between filing a motion and getting a court date in small claims court is usually within 20 to 70 days.
The potential downside of small claims court is that the court tries to settle these matters as quickly as possible, meaning that a person may not have the opportunity to have their complicated arguments and evidence heard at length, especially if the person isn’t prepared for this task. This is why it is incredibly important to be well-prepared, organized and concise at the hearing. People who represent themselves may be unprepared and unable to keep up with these demands, which is why it’s extremely important to have experienced legal counsel to help litigants through these hearings.
Source: California Courts, Basics, accessed Mar. 15, 2015