Auto Accidents II
AUTO ACCIDENTS – WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW . .
What happens when the other driver in an accident does not have insurance to pay for your damages? You can protect yourself by purchasing the proper coverage called “uninsured motorist” coverage.
Under uninsured motorist coverage (with both property damage and bodily injury coverage), your own insurance policy will pay for your vehicles damages less the deductible (unless you have a deductible waiver), your medical payments and your pain and suffering up to the limits of the policy without your policy premiums increasing. Uninsured Motorist coverage can also protect you in the event the at-fault party is insured but does not have enough coverage to entirely pay for your damages. For example, your property damage costs $6,500.00 in repairs but the at-fault party only has a $5,000.00 policy limit. If you have underinsurance coverage of a minimum of $10,000.00 property damage, your own carrier will pay for the difference. You must have higher policy limits than the at-fault party for underinsurance coverage to apply. In order to protect yourself and your property in an accident, you should seek to obtain advice from an insurance agent. Select an agent that has experience in auto policies who can explain all your options for coverage, the differences in the policy limits and how this will affect you in your time of need. Remember, discovering that you do not have insurance coverage after you are involved in an accident is too late. Take the time to protect yourself today.
What happens when neither you nor the other party have insurance coverage? Depending on your damages, some attorneys will still be interested in taking your case, especially when serious injuries are involved. Therefore, always seek the advice of an experienced attorney to weigh your options.
However, in situations where the damages suffered are $7,500.00 or less, you can file a Small Claims Court action against the at-fault party yourself. The Small Claims Court is informal, with simple methods of obtaining results at a minimal cost. Cases are resolved quickly, sometimes as fast as forty days. In a period of one year, you can only file a maximum of two claims with a total combined value of $7,500.00. An attorney can help you prepare your claim form; however, attorneys cannot represent you or participate in the hearing.
To file a Small Claims Court claim you must be at least 18 years of age and follow three simple steps: 1) Fill out the Small Claims Court Claim form inclusive of the following information: Proper location of the court, i.e. the city where the accident took place or the city in which the defendant (at-fault party) resides; the defendant’s proper name; and the facts in dispute with an exact figure of your damages; 2) Pay the filing fee unless you qualify for a fee waiver; and 3) Serve the Defendant. You can obtain a Small Claims Court Claim form at any courthouse and ask for an instruction package if available to guide you through the steps.
The hearing is informal. You will directly speak to the Judge who will ask you to prove your case. You must bring all evidence to substantiate your claim, such as pictures of the location of the accident and damages of your car, estimate of your car’s damages, medical bills, police report and witnesses to substantiate your version of the facts. The judge will make a ruling called a judgment. If you win, you can also obtain your costs, so keep the receipts of the filling fee and the service of process. Judgments remain valid for ten years with the opportunity for renewal and collecting interest on a daily basis. Only the defendant has the right to an appeal.
Obtaining a judgment in Small Claims Court is simple; however, collecting on that judgment may be a problem. Always remember, an experienced attorney can help by providing options on how to collect on your judgment.
This column is produced by Mary Der-Parseghian, Esq. For questions or comments, please send your message to 4727 Wilshire blvd., Suite 301, Los Angeles, CA 90010; E-mail: Mary@MaryDLaw.com or call at 323-937-2727. For additional articles please visit our webpage at www.MaryDLaw.com.
© 2011. Der-Parseghian Law Group