First, yes you can get pain and suffering in small claims, so that court is available to you. You will need to submit proof of pain and suffering (testimony, a diary, medical records that note it), but you can get it. You will be limited to an overall award of $10,000.00 for medical costs and pain and suffering, but the latter is available.
Yes, in both Superior court and small claims the judge can order you to pay the other side's "costs" if you lose. Not attorney's fees, but "costs". That would include things like filing fees, reasonable copying for trial, exhibit preparation for trial, court reporter's fees and the like.
Keep talking to attorneys. If you go solo in the claims process, expect the insurance company to low-ball any offer that they make. Some one should take your case.
Generally, attorney's fees are not collectable in a personal injury case in California. If the other side wins they are entitled to claim their ordinary costs under CCP 1033.5, such as filing and motion fees, depositions, etc. and if they sent the opposing side a CCP 998 Offer to Compromise and did better than the CCP 998 Offer after the trial, the court also has discretion to award them their reasonable expert fees as well.
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Sounds like you have suffered minor injuries or soft tissue injuries. There are attorneys who take theses types of cases. Contact a few more. If you lose in court you may be liable for the cost only and not attorney fees expenses of the defense.
Small claims court has a limit of 7500 for bodily injury damages if there is auto ins and its a car accident. Otherwise it is 10k. You can get pain and suffering damages in Small Claims. Ive awarded them as a Pro Tem there. You still have to prove your case. If you had no car ins and this is a car accident case, you lose your right to pain and suffering in any court. As for costs/fees, there would be no fees in small claims court, and I don't think the deft has to pay any cost to answer. In Superior court, you could be liable for defts costs. This is complex, as there are many different situations that come up that can affect the award of costs. Too many to discuss here.
You can get pain and suffering in Small Claims. In Los Angeles County you can also file the "claim" online and pay with a credit card. There are companies online that will also help you do the paperwork and file it for about $100. If you lose in small claims you will not have to pay the other side's legal expenses.
You may be liable for costs, but not usually attorneys' fees. You may also be required to pay expert fees under certain circumstances.
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