If you were involved in a car accident in Philadelphia that was not your fault, you might want to enforce your legal rights to compensation by filing a personal injury lawsuit against the driver who was ultimately responsible for the crash. If successful, such a suit can make a significant difference in your well-being after the accident by covering the costs of your medical expenses and other losses, which you would not have had to pay if it were not for the crash.
Small Claims Court
If the crash was a small one and you were either not hurt or only suffered minor bumps and bruises, you may wonder what your options are, and if you can enforce your rights without going through the time and expense of hiring an attorney.
This is where small claims court can help.
In Pennsylvania, if you are asking for $12,000 or less, then you can take your legal claims to small claims court, rather than through the traditional court system. Small claims court was designed for the quick and inexpensive resolution of minor losses, including car crashes like fender-benders or property damage only wrecks. While you can still hire an attorney to help you make your case to the judges at small claims court, most people choose to represent themselves, and the judges and staff are used to dealing with cases brought by non-attorneys.
If you choose to pursue your claim in small claims court in Philadelphia, then the place that you would end up filing your lawsuit would be at the Philadelphia Municipal Court.
Preparing Your Case
Regardless of whether you choose to file your lawsuit in small claims court or not, the first step to take – even before you file the lawsuit – is to prepare your case. When it comes to suing over your injuries suffered in a car accident, this means gathering all of the evidence surrounding the crash, itself, as well as documents that prove your legal damages.
A good place to start is with the police report for the accident. This report will have the official rendition of how the accident happened, as well as contact information for those who were involved as well as any eyewitnesses to the crash. If the police report shows that the other driver was responsible for the crash, then the outlook of your case gets much better than if it suggests that you were the one who caused it.
You will also want to keep all of the documents that are even remotely related to the injuries you suffered or the property damage that came from the crash. Without these documents, it will be impossible to prove that you should be compensated a certain amount.
Writing the Complaint
If you are not going through small claims court, then the next step is to write the complaint. This is the document that will initiate the lawsuit. If you are taking your case through small claims court, then all you will need are the documents that support your claim for compensation – the actual complaint will be created when you file your lawsuit.
The complaint is where you summarize what happened in the car accident and all of the ways that you were damaged, as a result. This includes the medical bills that you have already accumulated, the ones that you are likely to have to pay in the future, the costs of repairing the damage to your car, wages that you have lost while you were recovering, and any other forms of legal damages recognized in the state of Pennsylvania.
Once you have written the complaint, you can file your lawsuit at court.
Filing Your Lawsuit
You file your lawsuit by bringing the complaint to court, or by bringing your supporting documents to small claims court at the Philadelphia Municipal Court. There, you will have to pay a filing fee – if you cannot afford the filing fee, then you might be able to get the fee waived – and take the necessary steps to ensure that the defendant, the person you are suing, gets the complaint, as well. Serving the complaint on the defendant is called serving process, and needs to be done correctly, or else the defendant might never hear of the lawsuit, which they can use as a defense against your claims for compensation.
Winning Your Lawsuit
Once the lawsuit has been filed, a trial date will be set. If you chose to file your suit in small claims court, then this trial date will likely be sooner than if you went the traditional route, and will also be much less formal.
As the trial date approaches, there is nothing stopping you and the defendant from coming to an agreement and settling the case. In fact, judges tend to recommend settling cases and avoiding trial if at all possible, because trials are costly and stressful for everyone involved.
Abiding By the Statute of Limitations in Pennsylvania
If you do decide to file a lawsuit to get compensation for your injuries suffered in a car accident, the statute of limitations in Pennsylvania requires that you file your claim in court before two years have passed since the crash. This limitation is meant to ensure that everyone's memory of the event is still somewhat fresh, witnesses have not disappeared or moved far away, and important documents are still available and easily found. Additionally, the statute of limitations allows the defendant to rest safely in the thought that they cannot be sued once the time limit has expired.
Philadelphia Personal Injury Lawyers at Gilman & Bedigian
The best way to ensure you get the compensation you need and deserve after a car accident in Philadelphia is to have experienced personal injury attorneys at your side throughout the whole process.
If you or someone you love has suffered in a car wreck, contact the personal injury lawyers at the Philadelphia law office of Gilman & Bedigian online for the legal help you need.