Using the Small Claims Court to Obtain Compensation After a Minor Auto Accident in California

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For victims of minor auto accidents in Riverside County, taking the at-fault driver to small claims court may be a solid option for securing the compensation you deserve.

If you are injured in an auto accident in southern California, you have the legal right to pursue compensation that can go towards covering the costs of medical bills, lost wages, and other unanticipated expenses incurred by the incident. However, it can take time to negotiate a settlement, especially when you must deal with insurance companies who may try to deny you the compensation you are owed. If your auto accident resulted in minor injuries or property damage, you have the option of taking your case to small claims court. Let’s take a look at what the small claims process looks like for auto accident victims, and how to get started if you determine this option may work best for you.

Does Small Claims Court Work for My Auto Accident Claim?

Small claims court is not designed to handle claims involving significant amounts of damages. In California small claims court, individuals may not claim more than $10,000. This venue best serves those involved in more minor auto accidents, in which the property damage was under $1,500. If you suffered hard costs, such as medical expenses and lost wages, that are within the small claims court limit, or insurance negotiations have stalled, or the at-fault party does not have insurance, taking the at-fault driver to small claims court could work for you. 

Limitations to Small Claims Court Claims

The California small claims court deals strictly with monetary damages. This means that you won’t be able to recover compensation for pain and suffering, punitive damages, or other non-monetary losses. When you seek compensation, you should only focus on recovering the costs racked up by medical bills, lost wages, and other calculable expenses resulting from the accident. You should also know that winning your case will not result in an immediate check; you’ll have to wait for the other party’s insurance company to send you a check or take action to enforce the judgment in order to compel the other party to compensate you.

Starting the Small Claims Court Process

If you think that taking the at-fault driver to small claims court can help you recover the compensation you are owed, you have the option to work with an attorney or to go through the process on your own. Whether you proceed by yourself or hire an attorney to represent you, you will need to file your case within two years of the date of the accident. The official documents for getting started are available here. Even if you decide to represent yourself, you can always reach out to a trusted auto accident lawyer with any questions that you may encounter along the way.


To learn more about your options for pursuing compensation following an auto accident in the Temecula or Murrieta area, call Hales & Associates, A Professional Law Corporation today at (951) 489-3320.

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