Asked over 3 years ago - Atlanta, GAFlag
A police report is hearsay as well as a doctor’s report. So, what evidence is admissible in the GA Magistrate Court to effectively prove the fault and injury assuming no police and doctor are in the court session?
I would hire a lawyer to present your case. However, if you must go it alone here are some thoughts.
The rules of evidence apply in Magistrate Court just as they do in State and Superior Courts. However, Magistrate Court was created for small claims and the judge often bends the rules to make it easier on non-lawyers. You should always be prepared with the evidence and witnesses to prove your case. Certain pieces of evidence you as the plaintiff can lay the foundation for. Example: under Georgia law the injured party can testify as to the medical bills incurred as foundation for the admissibility of the medical bills. Additionally, you can testify to the injuries you sustained in the collision and the pain and limitations that you have suffered.
If the other drive pled guilty to the traffic citation, go obtain a certified copy of the guilty plea. A certified copy of a guilty plea is admissible as an admission of fault. Also, you should consider serving the police officer with a subpoena. That way the officer can testify based on his/her investigation the facts that illustrate the other driver was at fault.
When it comes to proving the value of your injuries, "before and after witnesses" are essential. Bring a couple of people that can testify to your physical condition before the collision and your injured condition after the collision. They can explain examples of how your injuries have limited your ability to do the things you want to do (work, hobbies, etc).
Magistrate Courts in each of Georgia's 159 counties have "small claims" jurisdiction up to $15,000. This means that many small claims for property damage and minor injuries may be handled efficiently in Magistrate Court. Even if you have a claim for a slightly greater amount, you may choose to voluntarily limit it to $15,000 in order to take advantage of the Magistrate Court's streamlined procedure.
After a Magistrate Court makes its decision, either party may appeal and demand a ?de novo? jury trial. However, if the defendant appeals a Magistrate Court judgment after July 1, 2001, the plaintiff will be able to claim more than the $15,000 that is allowed in Magistrate Court.
These courts are informal and relatively "user friendly". Cases can be filed by going to a Magistrate Court clerk's office, completing a form, and paying a modest filing fee. Many Magistrate Courts have evening sessions for the convenience of working people. A great many small claims are handled without lawyers on either side, and a nonjury trial may often be completed in less than an hour.
Before handling your own small claim in Magistrate Court, you should review the Code sections (O.C.G.A. §§ 15-10-43 and 15-10-44) and Uniform Rules of Magistrate Court, the “frequently asked questions” from the Office of Consumer Affairs, basic claim form , and any substantive laws affecting your claim in the Official Code of Georgia.
Look up the registered agent of any corporate party.
Look up information for the Magistrate Court of the county where the defendant resides, or where a defendant business is located.
You may then contact the Magistrate Court office in the county where the defendant resides or the defendant business is located, and request specific information about where and how to file your small claim.
If you choose to represent yourself in Magistrate Court, you may consider some of these general admonitions:
• Evidence and witnesses are crucial to proving your case. Never expect the Magistrate to just take your word for it.
• If you are bringing the case, you have the burden of proof, so prepare your evidence meticulously.
• Evidence is anything that supports your position, including photographs, medical bills, canceled checks, and written contracts.
• Your documents should be organized, marked as exhibits, with copies for the court and the other side.
• If you need to secure the attendance of a witness, you can obtain a subpoena from the court and serve it on the witness with the statutory witness fee and payment for mileage. There are special statutes regarding subpoenas to local police and deputy sheriffs and to state law enforcement officers.
• Rehearsing witness testimony to avoid surprises or slip-ups is not only ethical; it's essential.
• While live testimony of witnesses is best, evidentiary and procedural rules may be relaxed in Magistrate Courts "so as to do substantial justice between the parties according to the rules of substantive law." Therefore, Magistrates may consider affidavits (written statements sworn to before a notary) if a witness can't come to court. For example, you might use an affidavit from a physician about your injury. (See Georgia?s medical narrative statute, but make sure the doctor's narrative is sworn to before a notary.) You might also consider using in Magistrate Court an affidavit from a mechanic about the cost of repairing you
If you want to admit documents, you have to have someone to authenticate and testify about them. To use the two you mentioned, you'd want to subpoena the doctor and the officer. Absent that, the documents are unlikely to be admitted. The type case you mention is not really a do-it-yourself project. Talk to a lawyer.
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