The majority of car accident lawsuits are filed in a district or circuit court in the state where the accident happened. However, which court is able to hear your case depends, in part, on the amount of your damages you are claiming to have suffered in your lawsuit. Most clients have heard of small claims court, but that is not where car accident cases are normally filed. When it is time to file your lawsuit, let a Rogers car accident attorney help you determine the proper venue.
What types of cases can be filed in small claims court in Arkansas
In Rogers, it is the district court that has the jurisdiction to preside over a civil personal injury claim, but only if the damages being claimed is more than $5,000. Civil cases claiming damages less than that amount must be filed in with the Small Claims Division. Small Claims matters usually involve personal property and contract claims.
Car accident cases are typically not filed in small claims court
Only very minor car accident cases are filed in small claims court. In other words, the physical injuries and property damage being claimed as a result of the car accident must be very minor, totaling no more than $5,000. The majority of the time, a car accident case that is brought in small claims court only involves damage to the vehicle.
What is required to prove a car accident claim?
Regardless of whether you bring your car accident claim in small claims court, there are certain facts that must be proven before you will be entitled to damages. It is necessary to prove that the other driver operated his or her vehicle negligently and that negligence caused your property damage and injuries. Cases where it can be shown that the other driver was violating the law when the accident occurred, then negligence can be simpler to prove. In some cases, violating a law related specifically to operating a vehicle can result in presumed liability.
Be sure to submit estimates to prove your property damage
In order to recover for the damages your car sustained in the accident, you must prove the amount of those damages – that is the amount it will take to repair your car. It is best to provide the court with several estimates. A Rogers car accident attorney will likely recommend obtaining at least three. If you have already had your car repaired, then you can provide a copy of your canceled check or a receipt for the payments made to the repair shop, along with the three estimates. There are other elements of proof that can be submitted, so discuss your particular case with a Rogers car accident attorney to be sure you don’t miss anything.
Even in small claims court you need witnesses
A common misconception is that a small claims court case is not handled the same as any other civil case. Particularly, many people believe they do not have to present witnesses. That is not always a safe assumption. Even though there is no jury in small claims court, the judge would still prefer to hear testimony from individuals who have personal knowledge regarding the car accident. As in any other case, the right witness can either make or break your case.
It is important to remember, though, that your witnesses should be impartial, as opposed to friends or relatives unless they were in the car with you at the time of the accident and have relevant information. Just like in other cases, if a witness will not agree to appear in court voluntarily to give testimony, a subpoena can be requested and issued by the court to compel the witness to testify, if necessary.
Can I submit an accident report from the police in small claims court?
If liability is not obvious in your car accident case, then it is a good idea to get a copy of the police report. An accident report is admissible in small claims court because courts take the position that the officer called to the scene to investigate the circumstances is not only neutral but also in a better position to determine what actually happened.
However, remember that the statements in the police report may not necessarily support your case. So, be sure to review it before you submit it to the court. If there are statements in the report that are not favorable to your case, then you can at least be prepared to defend against it. Usually, an eyewitness statement can be used to refute a statement made by the police officer in the accident report, as he or she was not an eyewitness.
If you have questions regarding car accidents or any other personal injury concerns in Arkansas or Missouri, please contact the Cottrell Law Office for a consultation, either online or by calling us as (800) 364-8305.
He is licensed to practice law in the United States District Court for the District of Kansas, eastern Arkansas, western Arkansas, and western Missouri. He was Deputy Prosecuting Attorney in Crawford County, Kansas from 1987-1989.
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