Personally, I do not know any driver who has never been in a car accident. So, as one might expect, small claims related to car accidents are very common in the Small Claims Court. Of course, not all car accident cases end up in the Small Claims Court. Several factors must come together to make pursuing such damages through a small claim reasonable. Personal injuries sustained by drivers and passengers are, for example, are very rarely the subject of the Small Claims Court lawsuits for many reasons, including the fact that such injuries usually result in more than $25,000 in damage. For the most part, the car accident matters that do end up in the Small Claims Court deal with physical damages to the car.
Though the insurance company of the at-fault driver generally provides coverage to repair the other damaged car after the accident, there are situations where the at-fault driver has no insurance. In these cases, the insurance company of the driver who was not at fault would sue the at-fault driver directly through the Small Claims Court for the cost of repair. It must be noted that, though the claim will be initiated and pursued by the insurance company, it will be the owner of the damaged car who will be named as the plaintiff. The defendant, accordingly, will be the at-fault, uninsured driver.
In such cases, the mere fact that the defendant in the small claims court case did not have insurance at the time of the accident is not grounds to make him or her liable for the repair or replacement of the plaintiff’s car. There are several defences available to the uninsured driver.
- Proving that the accident was not his or her fault. If the defendant is able to show that she is not actually at fault of the accident, she may avoid liability.
- Show contributory negligence on the part of the plaintiff. This means showing that while the defendant may have some responsibility for the accident, the plaintiff’s actions contributed to the accident, as well. Contributory negligence is based on the Negligence Act. In situations where contributory negligence took place, the Small Claims Court may partially or even fully relieve the defendant from the obligation to pay for damages to the plaintiff’s car. From this point of view, the traffic charges and/or convictions entered against one or both drivers may play a significant role in the course of Small Claims Court litigation, as evidence to suggest the extent of the parties’ fault for the accident.
- Finally, the defendant may claim that damages are exaggerated. This type of defence would not dispute the extent of the defendant’s fault for the accident, but would aim to reduce the amount of the claim. Here, the defendant would attempt to show that the amount of the claim exaggerates the reasonable amount of money that would be sufficient to fix or replace the plaintiff’s car.
As you can see, Small Claims Court claims related to car accidents are interesting and also complex because they often lie at the intersection of insurance, traffic and negligence law. The Small Claims Court is often the best avenue for addressing situations where one of the drivers had no insurance.