Why Using Small Claims Can Hurt Your Personal Injury Case
Sometimes, people who have been injured in an automobile accident or who have suffered a personal injury want to take their case to small claims court. Small claims courts have become quite popular in recent years, in part, because of the many television shows that feature small claims cases. Yet despite what you might have seen on television, small claims court may not be your best option. When it comes to personal injury cases and actual small claims courts, there are a number of issues you need to consider before you decide to take your case to your local small claims court.
Small Claims Judgment Limits
The most important thing to realize about small claims courts is that they have specific limits. Every state allows for small claims courts, and all of these courts have specific monetary limits that apply to them, though this amount differs between states. For example, if you sue someone in an Arizona small claims court for personal injury, the most you can win is $2,500. If you bring a similar case in the state of Texas, the most you can win is $20,000.
Small Claims and Personal Injury Cases
Unless the injury you suffered is very minor, your personal injury case is likely worth much more than the small claims court maximum limit. If you choose to bring your case to small claims court you can only win the maximum amount allowable by law. If you have suffered injuries and have sustained damages worth more than the maximum allowable amount, you won’t be able to recover the higher damages, even if you win.
Small Claims and Attorneys
The vast majority of state small claims courts allow plaintiffs to have an attorney with them to represent their interests. Only a small number of states, such as California, don’t allow plaintiffs in small claims court to be represented by an attorney.
However, just because you can have an attorney for your small claims court case, doesn’t mean you’ll be able to find one who will represent you. Because small claims judgments are limited, the chance that an attorney will help you with your case is similarly limited. Attorneys need to be compensated for their time, and the amount of money you have to spend in a small claims case will be limited.
Further, many personal injury lawyers take cases on a contingency fee basis. This means that the lawyer doesn’t get paid unless you win your case. When that happens, the lawyer will take a percentage of your winnings as his or her fee. But, because small claims cases only have limited judgment amounts, the amount you can win will almost never be worthwhile from the attorney’s point of view.
Talk to a Personal Injury Lawyer
Before you decide to take your personal injury case to a small claims court, it’s very important that you speak to a personal injury attorney in your area. Only an attorney who has experience with a personal injury case can give you advice about your legal options and tell you what your best course of action will be.