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  1. #1
    Atomic Punk onefootoutthedoor's Avatar
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    07.24.15 @ 10:25 PM
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    Default Does anybody have experience going to small claims court?

    So a lady hit my car a few months back here in San Francisco. We exchanged insurance information at the time of the accident. Later that night, she called me up to ask if she could pay out of pocket instead of going through insurance. Looking back now, I stupidly agreed. I told her I was going to take it to a few body shops to get estimates, to which she agreed. Well, the estimates were alot more than her or I expected because the repairs came to $2800. So a few weeks went by and I got into contact with her and told her the total. She was pretty surprised at the cost and said she would need some tme to get the money together. So I finally dropped the car off last week and spoke to her today to tell her the car would be ready early next week. Well, now is where it turned sticky. She says she can't pay that much and can only afford $500. I told her that the reason it was so much was that the rear tailgate would need to be replaced completely. She then goes on to say that she has friends who would fix the car in a day for about $500. I flatly told her that was not an option that I would even remotely entertain. I then told her that she could go through her insurance company if she desired. She declined that option again. Finally I told her that she is not leaving me with much of a choice but to take her to court to recover my money from her. So, has anybody here had to go to court? What do I have to look forward to?

  2. #2
    Damage your reputation seenbad's Avatar
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    I think you're screwed. You're required by law to report an accident within something like 24 to 48 hours, specifically for things just like this. If you could get the cash from her within that window, you'd be fine obviously, but I think you're hosed. I'm not a lawyer though.
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  3. #3
    Atomic Punk onefootoutthedoor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by seenbad
    I think you're screwed. You're required by law to report an accident within something like 24 to 48 hours, specifically for things just like this. If you could get the cash from her within that window, you'd be fine obviously, but I think you're hosed. I'm not a lawyer though.
    Thanks, seen. I did read about the SR-1 form (the one you fill out w/ DMV). It's only required on damages of $750 or higher. The only thing is, neither of us thought that there was that much damage done. Plus, I didn't take the car in to get estimates until well after ten days. The more I'm reading, the more it looks like I may have a case. We'll see though.

  4. #4
    Baluchitherium loveevhsince79's Avatar
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    10.23.15 @ 04:49 PM
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    Do you have insurance? Call your insurance company and let them handle it. It's what you pay them for, squeezing another company to pay for your car to keep it in a condition so it equals the value of the loan or fair market value. The companies scratch each others backs because they all want their money when it's their client so they do not have to take the hit. They can tell you if you need some sort of confirmation that she is admitting guilt and what will qualify.

  5. #5
    Atomic Punk onefootoutthedoor's Avatar
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    07.24.15 @ 10:25 PM
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    That is another option too. The only potential problem with all of this is that the car is in the shop right now. Also, would my insurance company fault me in some way for waiting this long to report it to them?

  6. #6
    Baluchitherium loveevhsince79's Avatar
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    The only way to find out is ask your agent. It varies company to company. Also try calling the body shop and see if they took pictures of the damage before the repairs and ask for the itemized estimate. I would bet that the insurance co will be understanding as they have heard these sorts of stories before and it's not a huge amount of money because the vehicle was totalled. People waiting because they don't want their rates to go up, not wanting to tell a family member, thinking they can get it fixed themselves is pretty common.

  7. #7
    Eruption ericjt's Avatar
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    While I am not a lawyer or anything, I do love watching those court shows like People's Court & Judge Judy so I can offer something as this happens alot on those shows. The bottom line is you are out of money and have a right to be compensated. HER insurance company might give HER a problem for not filing in a timely manner, but would not excuse her from having to pay you for the damages she caused. Also, you have the right to choose the repair shop, as long as it a fair price a reputable place. The fact she has a "friend who can do it cheaper" is not her choice. Here are a couple of tips:
    1) Write down everything: dates, things said and so on. If possible, retain the phone records so there would be proof you called her and vice versa.
    2) If possible, keep multiple estimates as proof you did not try to inflate the damages.
    3) Keep receipts of everything you pay out.

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  8. #8
    Baluchitherium Guitar Shark's Avatar
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    Generally, you have an obligation under the terms of your insurance policy to report an accident to your insurance company as soon as reasonably possible. If you fail to do that, the insurance company may deny coverage.

    As far as small claims court goes, It's hard to say for sure, because the laws vary from state to state. But I've never heard anything of the sort mentioned by seenbad where you're prohibited from filing suit if you don't report the accident within a certain time. Certainly you would need to file suit before the statute of limitations expires. In my state that's 3 years, I'm not sure where it is where you live.

    It seems to me that one of your problems may be proof. What happens if you take her to court and she denies that she ever hit you? If you don't have a police report or a witness, you may be in trouble. One of the benefits of small claims court, however, is that attorneys typically aren't involved, so it's a fairly quick and inexpensive process. You don't have much to lose by filing suit, other than court costs and your time. Good luck man.

  9. #9
    Atomic Punk
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    05.31.14 @ 08:17 PM
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    You might want to ask a cop about any potential penatlies for not reporting your accident, only because there might be some. SFPD is pretty approachable and it would hurt for some advice from the men in blue.

    I say this because if there are any penalties they will be imposed by the judge who hears your case.

    Otherwise, she's liable and I'd say go for it if for no other reason than to piss her off. Just don't count on a win, although you might win.
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  10. #10
    Atomic Punk onefootoutthedoor's Avatar
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    Thanks for the replies so far guys. While I do not have a police report or witnesses, I do have a record of all of our phone conversations we have had, in addition to her address. One interesting note that I found out last night though was that the car she was driving was a rental car. Don't know how that'll change things, if at all. I am debating calling my insurance or filing in small claims court at this point. It may be easier to have my insurance company just go after her. The good news is that the statute of limitations is three years in California. Either way, I'll decide in the next few days.

  11. #11
    On Fire DirtyWaterDoggie's Avatar
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    12.12.17 @ 05:20 PM
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    Let your insurance company handle it. A few years back, I was hit by an under insured driver and I took him to small claims court, I had a police report and a witness, and I won.

    The dude made like two payments and then stopped and just about disappeared. The courts were not very helpful in forcing him to continue paying.

    I even asked a friend of a friend who was a collection agent what kind of options I had (like garnishing his wages, at this point it was about principals not the cash-my insurance paid for the repair-), he said the cost of forcing payment was a lot more than I was owed.

  12. #12
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    09.10.17 @ 07:23 PM
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    Quote Originally Posted by ericjt
    While I am not a lawyer or anything, I do love watching those court shows like People's Court & Judge Judy so I can offer something as this happens alot on those shows. The bottom line is you are out of money and have a right to be compensated. HER insurance company might give HER a problem for not filing in a timely manner, but would not excuse her from having to pay you for the damages she caused. Also, you have the right to choose the repair shop, as long as it a fair price a reputable place. The fact she has a "friend who can do it cheaper" is not her choice. Here are a couple of tips:
    1) Write down everything: dates, things said and so on. If possible, retain the phone records so there would be proof you called her and vice versa.
    2) If possible, keep multiple estimates as proof you did not try to inflate the damages.
    3) Keep receipts of everything you pay out.

    Good Luck!

    I ALSO WATCH THESE SHOWS DAILY AND CAN TELL YOU THERE IS NO WAY YOU LOSE 100% GUARANTEED! all it is going to cost you is the time to go to court.as a matter of fact you can go to judge joe browns website and sign up to be on the show! he also has a lot of legal info (forms etc.) on his website!

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