Do You Have to Go to Court for a Minor Car Accident?

A license plate and a dented car representing a minor accidentWhether it was a slight fender bender or a busted headlight, car accidents, no matter how minor they may seem, should be taken seriously. Although the accident caused only minimal damage to your vehicle, understanding proper legal procedures for minor accidents is important to ensure your rights are being protected and that you are handling the situation correctly.

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Definition of a Minor Car Accident

Minor car accidents are the type of car accident where there are minor or no injuries and minimal vehicle damage. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), the criteria for categorizing car accidents as minor are as follows:
  • The vehicle was able to be driven away from the crash site
  • None of the passengers sustained any injury in the crash
  • There is no visible damage to the car seat
  • The vehicle door nearest the car seat was not damaged
  • The airbags of the vehicle (if applicable) did not deploy during the crash
Common scenarios considered as minor car accidents include:
  • Busted headlight/ taillight
  • Cracked windshield
  • A fender bender
  • Minor rear-end collision
  • A small dent in the side of a vehicle
  • Busted tire
While minor car accidents may not need to be taken to court, there is still a legal process that one must follow. These include:

Checking for injuries

Even when you consider the car accident as a minor one, checking for injuries is one of the most important things to do after being involved in a collision. Despite the lack of heavy impact, it is important to note that there are certain types of injuries that cannot be directly observed immediately, which is why seeking proper medical attention after the collision is crucial to ensuring the safety of the passengers.

Take photographic evidence of the accident

Documenting evidence of the accident is a very crucial step to ensuring that car accident victims can recover compensation for the damages that occurred as a result of the collision. Taking photos of the accident can help local law enforcement, as well as the insurance company better determine who is at fault and who must be held liable. You can also take pictures of the injuries you have sustained from the accident, as it could be essential to your claim as well.

Move the vehicle off the street

Once you have taken photos or videos of the accident, if the car is still operational and safe to drive, move the vehicle off the street as safely as you can to avoid causing traffic or any more accidents on the highway or roadway.

Go to a safe location

After being involved in a traffic collision, the first thing that both drivers and passengers must do once they are able to get out of the vehicle is to move to a much safer location. For example, if your car gets stuck in the middle of the road and you cannot move it due to a vehicular malfunction, get yourself and your passengers off the road and move to the side, away from incoming traffic, to prevent being exposed to other hazards.

Call local law enforcement and file an accident report

Whether you consider the accident minor and unnecessary to take to court, calling local law enforcement and filing an incident report is still very important. Make sure to inform the dispatcher if there are no people injured in the collision. In this way, they can exercise their discretion to either send a police vehicle or an ambulance for assistance.

Exchange contact and insurance information

Exchanging contact and insurance information with the other driver involved is very important to ensure that those at fault will be held liable for the damages and that the victims will receive fair compensation. Make sure to ask the other driver’s full name, address, and contact phone number, as well as their insurance information, including the details of the insurance company.

Role of insurance companies in minor accident claims

In some states, reporting a minor car accident to your insurance company is not necessarily mandatory. However, this varies depending on the terms of your insurance policy and the laws of the state governing this issue. Generally, insurance companies aim to protect you financially. With regard to minor car accident claims, insurance companies play a vital role in determining fault and liability, insurance coverage, and whether or not the claim is valid.

Settlement Options for Minor Car Accidents

Importance of documenting damages and injuries for settlement negotiations

Having proper documentation of the damages and injuries you have acquired due to the accident is crucial to determining liability for the accident and settlement negotiations. Being able to provide certain documents such as photographs or videos of the accident and injuries you sustained, medical bills, accident reports, vehicle repair estimates, and any other document related to the accident can help your insurance company as well as your legal team in determining the appropriate compensation for the damages.

Factors Influencing the Need for Court

After a car accident, people tend to ask the question, “Do I need to take this case to court?” In some cases, the answer might be yes. Before you take the step of filing a lawsuit for your car accident claim, there are several factors you must first consider. These include:
  • Severity of damages and injuries
  • Disputes over fault and liability
  • Uncooperative insurance companies

Potential Scenarios Requiring Court Involvement

Disputed liability leading to a stalemate in negotiations

Taking accountability for a car accident is not always easy for the people involved. If you have been involved in a car accident and neither you nor the other party is willing to admit who caused the accident, taking the case to court can be the optimal choice to ensure that the person at fault is held liable and the victim receives fair compensation.

Unresolved disputes over compensation

While insurance companies aim to financially protect their policyholders, it’s no secret that they are also for-profit businesses. Insurance companies will try to settle a case by paying as little money as they can and refuse to offer a fair settlement for the damages. In cases like this, car accident claims may need to proceed in court.

Claims involving uninsured or underinsured drivers

Most of the time, car accident claims can be settled out of court, especially if the insurance companies of both drivers involved are cooperative and willing to provide compensation for the damages. However, there are instances when people get into car accidents with uninsured or underinsured drivers. If you got into a car accident with a driver who has no insurance and you have sustained severe damages and injuries, court involvement may be necessary.

Court Proceedings for Minor Car Accidents in California

While the majority of car accident cases are settled successfully out of court, there are instances in which car accident claims need to be settled in court, specifically in small claims court. For example, if you were involved in a minor car accident that you strongly believe was caused by the negligence of the other driver involved, and you were willing to settle as long as the liable party provided you fair compensation to cover the damages. In cases like this, filing a small claims case would be a much better option than filing a regular civil court case. Small claims court aims to help individuals resolve minor disputes without the need to go through a full-blown trial. Small claims cases revolve around money, and in every state, there is a set limit to how much an individual can claim. Generally, claims are limited to disputes up to around $5,000. Corporations, partnerships and other several legal entities cannot claim more than $5,000. Natural persons (individuals), on the other hand, may claim up to $10,000. If you are planning to start a small claims case for a minor car accident, here are the following steps you need to follow:
  • Fill out the necessary forms
  • File a complaint detailing the defendant’s alleged conduct as well as the amount of compensation you wish to receive
  • Send a copy of the complaint to the defendant
  • Receive the defendant’s response
  • Gather evidence
  • Prepare for your court date
It is important to note that once you let a small claims court resolve your dispute with the other party involved, you cannot file for an appeal. This means that if you lose your case, you will not be able to request a new hearing with a different judge of the superior court. However, if you do win the case, the defendant may file an appeal and request to have a higher court determine if certain mistakes were made by the lower court.

Do I Need A Lawyer For A Minor Car Accident in California?

While small claims cases don’t necessarily require lawyers, having an attorney by your side will help you make better decisions in accordance with the case. Small claims courts have simplified procedures. However, individuals may still face challenges during court procedures due to the lack of legal expertise and experience. Attorneys cannot represent you in court, but they can provide valuable assistance outside of the court, such as:
  • Providing clients advice regarding the strengths and weaknesses of their case
  • Gathering evidence and preparing the paperwork
  • Guiding clients on how to effectively present their case

Call An Experienced Car Accident Lawyer Now

There are several options you can choose from on how to handle minor car accidents. You can choose to settle out of court through mediation and arbitration, file a small claims case or undergo trial. It all depends on the severity of the accident, the amount of compensation you wish to receive and how you and the other party involved choose to resolve the issue. When dealing with car accident cases, regardless of whether it was a major accident or a minor one, seeking legal guidance for navigating the legal process is crucial to ensuring the protection of your rights. With the legal help and expertise of a well-experienced attorney from the Crockett Law Group, you can better determine your losses, fight for fair compensation and avoid making the mistake of settling too soon with a lowball offer. Text Kevin Accident Attorneys is a five-star rated personal injury law firm in Southern California focused on car accidents. Our team has helped hundreds of clients to get better settlements and maximum benefits. We’re ready to do the same for you. If you have been involved in a car accident and are unsure of what to do, contact us now at (888) 965-3827 for your inquiries or send us a message through our secure and confidential online form. Our fast and reliable team is available to assist you 24/7.
Kevin Crockett

Kevin Crockett

Kevin Crockett is an award-winning personal injury lawyer who understands the impact an accident can have on someone’s life. That’s why he aggressively fights for each of his clients.

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