OT: How hard is it to file a small claims court case?

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Submitted by flu on December 20, 2012 - 1:06pm

Asking for a friend.

Someone crashed into my friend's house and did some property damage to the house. Person wasn't insured.. Was wondering, how difficult is it to take the uninsured person to court. Damage probably is < $1500.

Worth the time/money?

Submitted by UCGal on December 20, 2012 - 1:57pm.

It's a do it yourself process.
- File
- Subpoena/serve the other party.
- Show up with your documentation.

It's been years since I had a case in small claims - but it was pretty straight forward.
I found getting the judgement in my favor, easy.
Collecting... well that's another story. There's a woman out there that STILL owes me about $1200. But I made her life semi-miserable for a while. It was a car accident - she didn't have insurance. So I proved that to the DMV and they pulled her license. She got insurance got her license back. I went to the DMV and showed she had an outstanding judgement from a motor vehicle accident, they pulled her license again.
Then she left the state.

Submitted by teaboy on December 20, 2012 - 3:29pm.

I have also heard that it's nigh on impossible to actually enforce judgements like that against private citizens...

Out of interest, what does "DMV pulled her license" mean? The lady presumably will keep her physical license (and can continue to use it for, say, ID purposes), so it's only a problem if she's driving and pulled over by a cop. Right?
If she's driving without insurance already, what's the diff with driving without a license, too?

The difficulty in actually enforcing the small claims court judgement is the main thing which would ever stop me spending the time and effort to take someone to small claims, so I'm interested to hear more about getting the DMV to "pull" someone's license...
Can I call SDGE and get them to "pull" their utilities, too? :-)

tb

Submitted by AN on December 20, 2012 - 3:42pm.

I totally agree with you teaboy. I guess if you have the time to do it, then it's worth it. But if I have to take a vacation, that's the cost of 1 day of work just for a chance at recouping <$1500. That seems not worth the time and effort to me. Not to mention the time you need to spend to file the paper work.

Submitted by XBoxBoy on December 20, 2012 - 3:52pm.

I second what UCGal says. Going through small claims court is not that hard. Collecting your money, well that's another matter.

Worth mentioning. When I went to small claims court a number of years ago with a landlord the judge opened the court every day with a speech along these lines: "The reason you are here is you haven't reached a compromise. My job is to help you find a compromise, even if it's not what you want." As he started hearing cases, what became really apparent was the judge was not interested in who was right or who was wrong. He was more interested in forcing the two parties to negotiate. If you said you'd accept lower than you were asking, he'd turn to the defendant and pressure them to make an offer. If they refused he'd threaten to settle in your favor. If they made an offer he'd turn to you and start pressuring you to lower your expectations. If you refused he'd threaten to find in the defendant's favor. Back and forth until a number was mutually agreed on. There was little to no interest in the merits of the case, who had done what, only what would the defendant pay you to go away, and what would you accept to settle. But of course it was all a bit silly because when we walked out of the court the judge would do nothing to help you collect.

XBoxBoy

Submitted by no_such_reality on December 20, 2012 - 4:07pm.

Sounds like they claim they make it easier to collect now. http://oag.ca.gov/consumers/general/small

Submitted by doofrat on December 20, 2012 - 6:48pm.

teaboy wrote:
I have also heard that it's nigh on impossible to actually enforce judgements like that against private citizens...

Out of interest, what does "DMV pulled her license" mean? The lady presumably will keep her physical license (and can continue to use it for, say, ID purposes), so it's only a problem if she's driving and pulled over by a cop. Right?
If she's driving without insurance already, what's the diff with driving without a license, too?

The difficulty in actually enforcing the small claims court judgement is the main thing which would ever stop me spending the time and effort to take someone to small claims, so I'm interested to hear more about getting the DMV to "pull" someone's license...
Can I call SDGE and get them to "pull" their utilities, too? :-)

tb

Because the DMV requires every driver to be financially responsible for their vehicle and the damage resulting from it, and having a judgement against them for financial responsibility indicates otherwise, they get their license suspended. Other stuff like not reporting certain accidents in a timely manner will also get your license suspended.
Problem is that once your license is suspended, your insurance is not valid.
In California at least, if you get caught without insurance, your car will be impounded and rightfully so.
Now if she moved to another state, I'd guess that if her insurance company found she had a suspended license in California, they could use that to deny a claim, but I'm just guessing.

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