The claims process begins the day a lawsuit is filed. It ends with the verdict. The basics of a lawsuit in the U.S. remain similar in all areas of the country. Certain procedures, though, state-by-state, are different. When initiating a lawsuit, the requirements of the County Court require review.
Different states refer to their Small Claims Court systems differently. Names include “Municipal Courts”, and “Justice of the Peace Courts”. The name goes along with the state and the type of case. The correct Small Claims Court is located by way of the County Clerk’s Office. The state, county or city website lists the name of the court, too.
The plaintiff files a “Complaint” or “Petition.” The defendant receives notice of the suit. Necessary documentation is gathered. The trial follows the preceding actions. Each side attempts to convince a Judge or Jury that their respective position is correct. The verdict concludes the suit.
There are five basic parts of the lawsuit:
1-Determination of which parties to sue;
2-Filing the lawsuit;
3-Subpoena of the witnesses and evidence;
4-Conducting the trial; and
5-Reaching a verdict.
The lawsuit begins once it is determined who is the guilty party. The claims adjuster or insurance company of the guilty party are neither suable. The insured or guilty party becomes the defendant. He or she is accountable for injuries. The insurance company can defend the claim for their client. The insured is accountable for his or her negligent action. The courtroom removes the insurance company from the list of legal parties to the suit. The only reason the claims adjuster becomes involved in the courtroom setting is when he or she acted in bad faith. When the claims adjuster acts in bad faith, the services of an attorney are required. Another time is when the claim is very complicated–which is the case when it comes to many accident lawsuits.
The Plaintiff files suit in the county where injury occurred or in the county where the Defendant takes up residence.
The “Complaint” or “Action” requires a small filing fee. The filing fee is approximately $100. The Plaintiff winning a suit generally asks the court to include the filing fee as part of the verdict.
The Plaintiff completes a brief form including reason for the lawsuit. It is important that the Plaintiff not go into extensive detail. Providing too much, in the way of detail, gives the Defendant an advantage. The Defendant knows precisely what to argue about when details are given. The Defendant prepares a defense to counter all the details. In order to win, the Plaintiff must provide brief and honest answers on the form. Sentences providing description of the logical reason of the lawsuit are good enough.
The plaintiff, then, waits a few weeks for the Defendant to receive notification of the suit. The defendant receives notice of the lawsuit by Certified Mail or by the Sheriff. The notice includes the date of the trial. The Plaintiff receives a notice—similar, in the form of a form letter or postcard from the Small Claims clerk.
Small Claims Courts generally permit parties to subpoena witnesses and documentation. Subpoenas are free of charge. The Plaintiff asks the small claims clerk for one or more subpoena forms. The Plaintiff places the case number and other necessary information on the form. Witnesses agreeing to testify on behalf of the Plaintiff require a copy of the subpoena in order to take the day off from work.
The small claims trial is a legal argument between the Plaintiff and Defendant. The referee is the Judge, unless a jury is involved. The Judge wishes to hear the case as quickly as possible. He or she does not wish it held up by strict rules of procedure. The Plaintiff merely focuses on the factual elements of the case. The judge allows both sides some flexibility in way of out of court statements—made by third parties. It is best to play it safe, though. The best approach is to have all witnesses ready to testify on the day of the hearing. It is easier to convince the judge of the credibility of the statements.
The Plaintiff organizes and prepares for the case prior to entering the courtroom. The dress, in the courtroom, must remain conservative. The Plaintiff wears a nice jacket and tie, if a man. The woman wears a nice suit or dress. The Judge values the respect paid to the Court and him or her in way of the Plaintiff’s dress.
Primary or significant points are noted. The Judge has a full schedule so the case moves quickly. Most small claims judges hear each case for a total time of ten minutes to sixty minutes. It is important, too, that witnesses are properly prepared. The witnesses may wait in the hall while the trial is going on. The Plaintiff makes certain that the testimonies of the witnesses remain consistent. Each gives similar versions of the truth.
The Plaintiff presents his or her case. When an attorney is used, with regard to accident lawsuits; in a trial, the attorney presents the case on behalf of his or her client.
In all lawsuits, whether heard in lower courts or in way of a larger court venue, as it pertains to accident lawsuits, end with a verdict. A judge or jury renders a decision.
The plaintiff who loses his or her case can appeal. In order to appeal to a higher court, the services of an attorney, knowledgeable in way of accident lawsuits are required. The higher court is not the venue for a novice. The judge requires strict rules of evidence