How Do I File My Own Lawsuit In Small Claims Court in Georgia
As we have described in our Georgia Car Accident Guide book, you know that it is not cost effective to hire a lawyer for a simple case with less than $3,000 in medical bills. If you have already followed the directions laid out in the Guide and the insurance company wont even offer the gross total of the medical bills or just a few hundred above and you have the fire in your belly, put your $150.00 down and bring your own case in Magistrate Court. Remember it won't be easy because the other insurance company will give their insured a free lawyer to defend them. (the duty to defend)
Sometimes, the simple filing of the lawsuit will increase the offer. (exception is Progressive Insurance and some of the insurers of last resort in Georgia)
With small cases file the suit in the defendant driver's home county Magistrate Court if they are Georgia resident. The Magistrate Court has the ability to award up to $15,000.00 and the cases are tried to a judge only with no jury.
1) File against the guy that hit you, not their insurance. 2) Bring the case in the the other driver's county. If they don't live in Georgia, read our article on Georgia venue and personal jurisdiction requirements. 3) Stay in touch with the Court to make sure the sheriff actually serves (gives the papers to ) the defendant. Also make sure you watch out for the Georgia statute of limitations on injury claims.Failure to serve the defendant undoes the lawsuit. 4) Keep the lawsuit simple. For example:
"John Doe ran into the rear of my vehicle while I was stopped at a stop light damaging my car in the amount of xxx dollars and I was injured. My medical bills total $xxxxxx. I am also seeking reasonable compensation for suffering."
What did the other driver do wrong. What did it do to you and how much were the bills. (submit the gross amount of the medical bills)
If it goes to trial, you will be fighting a lawyer who knows the rules better than you. If the case is simple and it is clear the other driver is responsible then you have a fighting chance.
Things to know at trial.
1) The police report is not admissible and neither is the ticket unless the other driver paid it,
2) The defendant is not automatically responsible. Be prepared to ask the defendant questions that prove they caused the crash.
3) Tender photos of the damage into evidence. Show the opposition the photo first and then tell the judge that the picture fairly and accurately represents the thing you took the picture of.
4) Identify your medical bills (not the medical records, because they are heasay) and tender them into evidence for the judge to consider.
5) Before your rest your case, make sure:
a) you proved it was the other sides fault. If not the judge cannot find for you. b) you provided testimony about the injury c) you tendered the medical bill you received. d) if seeking property damage you cannot tender an estimate to repair (hearsay). It must be a paid bill or bring the estimator live to trial.