If you are not the “At Fault” driver then small claims court may help you achieve more money for your vehicle damage. Each state has a dollar limit for small claims court. New Jersey is $3,000 whereas New York is $5,000. Car Claim Relief provided links to each state’s small claims court regulations for your research.
New Jersey has a court advocate that a free service available to answer questions about the small claims court process. They will not give you legal advice, just answer questions about the paperwork and instruct you on court room etiquette.
Just because the insurance company is not going to pay any additional money for your totaled vehicle doesn’t mean it’s not worth more. It just means that is all the insurance company is willing to pay. Now you can present your case to the Judge to make up the difference between what you ascertained and what the insurance company was willing to pay.
Small Claims Court will requires you to fill out a form along with a small fee to file a claim. Then you will receive in the mail a court date for your hearing. Now you have to prepare your case in simple terms for the Judge. It is not as overwhelming as it might seem. The work you did in researching fair market value and your vehicle receipts is what you will use.
Even though you are in small claims court there are still rules that need to be followed. Your local jurisdiction will have instruction on how to conduct yourself. As mentioned before just because the insurance claim representative has settlement rules to follow doesn’t mean the Judge will agree with those rules.
The Judge wants to see a well organized straight to the point presentation. You already created your presentation for the insurance claim representative. Now you need to modify the structure for the court.
Insurance companies must negotiate in good faith. When you researched the fair market value of your auto and populated your FMV worksheet you were able to ascertain auto price difference between the insurance settlement offer and what you ascertained.
If the price is beyond a 20% difference than your research it’s an indication of insurance companies negotiating in bad faith. Between your numbers and providing examples of bad faith you have an excellent chance of winning your claim. We also discussed in populating the FMV worksheet how unusual costs like a new transmission would gain only $10-$50 more. Something that cost over $2,000 you only received a small amount of compensation. The insurance claim representative did not want to recognize the cost because then your vehicle would probably not be totaled.
That is not the case with the Judge, using facts and the insurance claim representative’s bad faith negotiation tactics, will go a long way in winning your claim.
Winning in court does not guarantee you any money. If just means the courts recognize the defendant owes you money and a judgment is issued. You would then have to use other means to collect. If the party did not want to pay then you can file a lien with the county they reside. That will affect their credit rating and cost more money than your settlement amount, they will pay then.
However if the at-fault driver has executive coverage like Chubb Insurance, they will pay the judgment amount; it is part of the policy. That is why they will also represent their policy holder in court. If the insurance company feels you have a case they will call you the day before the court appearance and offer you a settlement.