After a severe injury in a car accident, you find yourself at a stalemate with the insurance company. They refuse to settle, pay your bills, and now you find yourself with excessive costs piling up and nowhere to turn. With settlements no longer an option, you must decide if you plan to sue or forget it.
If you were to file a lawsuit, where your case ends up depends on personal preference and a few elements. While it could potentially see its way to small claims court, there are reasons why you should consult with an attorney and avoid small claims court if possible.
Why Philadelphia Injury Cases Do Not Settle
You may have heard that all injury cases settle out of court, but this is not the case. While a clear majority do settle out of court, many still must go to court and get resolved there. Cases do not settle out of court for similar reasons, such as:
- The insurance company has denied the claim outright.
- The adjuster has refused to offer a fair enough settlement to cover the victim’s damages.
- The case does not qualify for alternative dispute resolution or mediation – or the options are unavailable.
- The defendant has no insurance.
- The defendant has insurance, but not enough to cover the injury and damages.
When injuries are minor, you may be able to go to small claims court. However, it is still best to consult with an attorney and make sure your injuries are as minor as they seem by visiting a doctor. Some accident injuries take days to manifest, and others can create long-term complications that victims do not realize – such as chronic back pain or migraines.
What is Small Claims Court?
Small claims courts are available in every state. They were created to help relieve the backlog of injury and civil lawsuits that affected county and state court dockets. They also allow for plaintiffs to file as pro se plaintiffs, which means they represent themselves without an attorney.
Small claims let you present your grievances, and a judge decides, but they are more informal. You do not need to know complicated legal procedures, and you will have more relaxed rules. The other side does not bring an attorney either; they can defend themselves.
Small claims courts typically handle everything from minor injury cases to civil disputes.
Small Claims Courts Have Limitations
In Pennsylvania, small claims courts are called Magisterial District Courts. Like all states, the Magisterial District Courts have a limit on the maximum compensation you can request, which is $12,000. Therefore, if your damages exceed the $12,000 range, you cannot file an injury case in small claims court. Instead, you must file with your county court.
Small Claims Court Decisions are Enforceable
While the amount of money from these institutions is small, they are as enforceable as a higher court. That means that if the defendant does not follow through and pay, they will have interest added to the judgment, liens applied, and collection methods used.
The Pros and Cons of Small Claims Court – and Why They Do Not Work for Most Injury Cases
There are advantages to using small claims court, but also disadvantages, especially for people with serious injury cases.
- The insurance company is pressured by the court to settle.
- Both parties must appear in court, which forces the other side back to the table and pushes negotiations.
- The filing fee is small, and you have no attorney’s fees.
- The judgment is enforceable.
The Disadvantages of Small Claims Court
- No Attorney: You will not have an attorney in this case; therefore, you are going up against insurance companies that have been to small claims court, handled settlements, and know what they are doing. While the rules are relaxed, the insurance company will take advantage of the fact that you do not have legal representation, and they know you do not know the compensation you are legally entitled to.
- Limited Amounts: When you have a severe injury, your medical costs alone will exceed the maximum allowed by the courts in Pennsylvania. Therefore, you would be shorting yourself the compensation you deserve.
- Verdict Outcomes Vary: You could still lose in small claims court, or the judge gives you an amount that does not cover your costs anyway.
- The Defendant Could be Broke: If the defendant has no insurance and no assets, then going to small claims court might not be worth the filing fee and time investment either. When they have no income, assets or insurance policies to cover your costs, the court offers little recourse.
The Best Way to Get a Settlement: Hire an Attorney
When the insurance company refuses to settle, gives you the runaround, or the defendant has limited insurance to cover your serious injuries, you need legal assistance.
An injury attorney is there to protect your rights. They review your damages and make sure you get the compensation you deserve. Furthermore, they do not rest until the defendant pays for the accident they caused.
If you have been seriously injured, speak with attorney Jeffrey H. Penneys, Esq.
I have been helping clients just like you for years seek the compensation you need for medical bills, lost wages, and your physical pain. I know what it is like to deal with insurance companies, and I know how frustrating it can be to receive a settlement after an accident. Let me handle the insurance company while you recover from your injuries.
Schedule a free case evaluation today by calling me at 800-465-8795 (office), 215-771-0430 (cell), or fill out my online contact form with your questions.