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North Hollywood, CA |

I had a car accident; other driver admitted fault-my car was "T-boned" drivers side door. I sustained injuries & hired an atty to rep me. Other drivers insur Co (Mercury) paid out immediately $6400 to repair my car. Submitted med bills ($4500) to same insur company many months later; they only offered a portion of what my atty requested $5K - no add'l for pain, suffering, time missed from work. Atty won't take on expense of costly jury trial & says I should go to small claims court against other driver; better chance of winning. Atty helped me file court docs requesting $4500 medical/$5500 p&s; total is limit I can seek in small claims of $10K. Why do I have to chase this $ in court by myself? Shouldn't MY insur co at least step in & do that for me since atty can't/won't?

My atty states small claims court will hear cases up to $10K for personal injury in auto accidents; when I filed at the Beverly Hills Courthouse, they concurred (this increase became effective last year). Defendant is NOT allowed insurance rep at his elbow; feeding information to him during this hearing anymore than I am allowed an atty by my side at that time. Why am I being told otherwise by these wise atty's on AVVO? Also, will the judge suggest mediation outside in the hallway as is common in small claims courts?

Attorney Answers 9

  1. Best answer

    Small claims court is an excellent venue for dealing with limited damage claims because it is far more cost effective and time effective.

    On the other hand, trying a small case in the unlimited jurisdiction can outweigh the benefits of a jury verdict.

    For example, in a simple auto case with just one medical expert, the costs of a jury trial in the unlimited jurisdiction can easily exceed $12,000 which may be more than the value of the case itself. How do these costs stack up? Well, if your case is tried in the unlimited court, then the filing fee is $430, service of process will be around $100, deposition transcript fee of the other driver will be around $500, medical experts to testify at your trial will charge around $2500 to be retained and another $5000 to testify at trial, defense expert will charge $800 an hour for his expert testimony, transcript of the defense expert's deposition will cost an additional $800, records subpoenaed into evidence will cost several hundred dollars, a court reporter at trial will cost $250 + per day for 4 to 5 days, and a jury will cost another $250 + per day. This is in addition to you spending 4 to 5 days in trial, submitting to a deposition (a half day), submitting to a defense medical examination (a half day), and responding to lengthy pre-trial written discovery.

    In small claims, you can expect to spend about half in court filing fees and the same in service of process fees. That's it. That's about $300 in costs compared to the unlimited jurisdiction costs. Also, a small claims trial will take about 15 to 30 minutes and maybe inconvenience you a half day compared to spending a week in court at a jury trial. Also, there are no depositions, no defenses medical examinations, and no discovery in small claims. Thus, you will spend a tenth of the time litigating a case in small claims than you would in the unlimited court.

    So, the threshold question becomes, is the case worth enough money to justify fighing in a jury trial for more money than the limits allowed in small claims in light of the extra costs and time?

    Now, some of those costs incurred in the unlimited jurisdiction may be recovered and some may not depending on factors too lengthy to address in this forum. But, bottom line, small claims is a far more appropriate venue for dealing with small cases than is the unlimited court.

    Now, I don't pretend to know the value of your case. You have provided very little info on you damages. It could be worth more than the small claims Court's jurisdictional limit, it could be worth less than that. I am happy to look at your file and give you my opinion on that. You can call me at my office at (949)851-0222 or you can call any of the attorneys here on AVVO to discuss.

    Marc Lazarus

  2. You don't need to settle for small claims court and your insurance doesn't need to do it for you. Use the "find a lawyer" tab on this site to find a new personal injury lawyer near you who can help you. Good luck

  3. You should consult another attorney because based on those facts something doesn't sound right.

    Call for a free consultation at 727-937-1400 or visit us on the Web at

  4. I agree with both answers. Additionally, your insurance company is not a party to any cause of action, so they do not bring a case for you. Hire another lawyer as your medical bills justify more attention and if you are still in pain or have permanent injury that is worth more than just bills.

  5. Bottom line is to retain a lawyer not scared to go to trial. About 99% of all attorneys have no trial experience. Find one who does. Good luck.

    Only 29% Contingency Fee! Phone: 215-510-6755

  6. Make sure your adjuster has provided you a written response on the basis of their coverage denial. Especially if you have Med Pay coverage. Usually that is a miniumum of $5k if you have copmrehensive insurance. Make sure you have submitted a claim asking for full reimbursement with your carrier. Make sure they have denied coverage first and provided the basis of a coverage refusal. Also, I am not sure small claims limits are $10,000 for individuals.

    On a further note, Mercury is very good at challenging cases in Small Claims court. Thier adjuster will be there every step of the way helping this driver defense the matter under lack of damage and injury. Then, even if you obtain the maximum amount, Mercury will appeal it, hire an attorney and retain an accident reconstruction expert. We have challenged admissiblity of an Accident re-con afer the fact and lost. Cost of defene will not matter. They are very good at this. You are thinking correctly to deal with your carrier first and see if they can chase the money. First party claims have more obligations than third party claims (Mercury). Mercury has not obligation to settle prior to trial, but you will certainly wake them up with a small claims action as they cannot' have an attorney present. Try consulting a peronal injury attorney first.

    This email does not create an Attorney-Client relationship.

  7. Your insurance company has no dog in the fight. They only pay for your damages for which you have purchased coverage. This is your case and you must prove it up. get your documents together: proof of insurance, property damage estimate and photos, police report, medical report , proof of wage loss and go down and get your money.

  8. Sorry to tell you this, but in Ca small claims, you cannot get more than 7500.00 when suing for injury if the deft has insurance that has a duty to defend. Your deft has Mercury. The 10k cap doesnt apply. This shows the strength of the ins lobby in Sacramento. You can collect 10k for damage to your car, but for bodily injury to a person, 7500.00 is the most you can get. If deft appeals, you can have an atty appear at the appeal too. Hopefully your lawyer will.

    Good luck.

  9. Why would your insurance company represent you in a claim against the adverse party? That is not what they agreed to do when you signed an insurance contract with them. It sounds like your attorney felt that your case was not profitable and decided to drop your claim. You certainly are free to locate another attorney to help you.

    Legal Disclaimer:

    If this information has been helpful, please indicate below.

    Mr. Lundeen is licensed to practice law in Florida and Vermont. The response herein is not legal advice and does not create an attorney/client relationship. The response is in the form of legal education and is intended to provide general information about the matter within the question. Oftentimes the question does not include significant and important facts and timelines that, if known, could significantly change the reply and make it unsuitable. Mr. Lundeen strongly advises the questioner to confer with an attorney in your state in order to ensure proper advice is received.

    This ans. does not create an attorney/client relationship.

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