Small Claims Court?
Posted On behalf of Pfeifer Morgan & Stesiak on May 02, 2011 in Educational
Not every case results in a multi-million dollar jury trial. Most accidents always fatal or disabling, and don’t merit that kind of legal action. When the damage is mild and long term effects are not a factor, small claims court may be the best place to seek a remedy.
You can educate yourself on small claims court by reading Indiana's Rules of Court for Small Claims.
However, some cases fall in the gray area where the damage is valued at less than $5,000, but there may be potential for problems beyond the time of the accident.
Fortunately, there are few ways to tell if your case does warrant an attorney and jury trial.
Drugs or Alcohol Involved
Were alcohol or drugs a factor in your accident? If they were, then criminal laws will enter the equation, making the civil remedy a bit difficult to obtain. The authorities get priority over witnesses and evidence, which could derail your small claims case. These types of cases are difficult to handle on your own. That is why you should hire a personal injury attorney to guide you through the criminal case and file the civil suit at the appropriate time.
Emotional or Mental Trauma
Permanent illness and physical disability are obvious factors that can turn a case into a candidate for jury trial. These factors impact the plaintiff for many years after the accident, leading to thousands or even millions in medical costs, lost wages and other damages.
Similarly, mental and emotional affects of the accident can also run up the legal price tag. Do not dismiss the civil litigation route because there are no physical damages to show.
A personal injury attorney in South Bend may be able to make a case for emotional and mental impact that you would be hard pressed to conceive of in small claims court.
If the defendant in your case files bankruptcy, recovering your damages can become quite difficult to do. A personal injury lawyer can navigate such a case to your benefit, better than you could do in small claims court. The attorney may also uncover other responsible parties that can be sued, if the initial defendant files for bankruptcy.
Malpractice, Divorce, and Probate
Small claims cases are not possible if malpractice of any kind is involved. Such cases require the expertise of a personal injury attorney and is much too complex to go at alone. Divorce cases are similar in that they involve family law issues that are outside the scope of small claims court.
Probate courts may also have jurisdiction over your case if there is a death or the incident involves property held in probate.
Additional probate law issues apply that require a professional and are outside the scope of small claims court. Small dents and dings that involve no injuries and just a few hundred dollars in damage are easily settled without the attorneys.
However, any complication can elevate the case to a trial worthy claim, especially if there are other areas of law involved. It never hurts to consult a personal injury law attorney before petitioning the small claim courts. You could be saving yourself an unnecessary headache.