Personal Injury Cases
Small claims courts are less likely to be involved in personal injury cases than other cases. First, there are usually higher stakes in cases where someone has been injured. This means that lawyers are more likely get involved. Many states also require that personal injury cases are filed in a formal court. They do not allow them to be brought in small claims courts. A small claims judge in other states can only award the victim the dollar amount of their out-of-pocket expenses (doctors’ bills or lost time from work), but he cannot award additional money to compensate for the victim’s suffering and pain. Check your local laws before you file a minor personal injury claim in small claims court. Some personal injury cases end up in small claims court. One example is dog bite cases.
Medical and Hospital Bills
As long as the other party is responsible for your medical bills and hospital bills (including transportation to and from the doctor), the amount can be recovered. If you have health insurance, and your insurance company has paid your medical expenses, your policy will state that you must turn over any money that you get for those costs to them. Insurance companies often don’t bother to track or recover small claims court judgments because the amount of money involved is too high. Many judges won’t grant medical bills judgments unless an individual can prove that he or she paid for it out of pocket. However, if you have uninsured expenses and deductible payments, include them.
Loss of Pay
An injury can result in loss of pay or time off. This is how it’s viewed. Imagine that the cocker spaniel on the block is waiting for you behind the hedge, and grabs your derriere as breakfast. You then miss a day of work to get yourself fixed up. Any vacation, pay, or commissions lost are yours to recover. You cannot recover if you are entitled to unlimited sick leave and you do not suffer any loss as a result.
Both pain and suffering
Third, recovery is for “pain and suffering”. A large portion of the recovery, when you look at big-dollar settlements, falls under this category. It is clear that some injuries can be a difficult, painful and miserable process for which reasonable compensation is possible. An aggressive lawyer can make “pain and suffering” an excuse to inflate a claim.
For injury caused by malicious or willful misconduct (often a fraud or criminal act), formal trial courts can award additional damages. These damages, which are intended to punish the defendant, can reach the millions if the defendant is wealthy. In small claims, punitive damages (sometimes called “exemplary damage”) are not allowed in half of the states. Even in states that allow punitive damages to be awarded in small claims, the low dollar limit of small claims courts largely bars them. The exception to cases where specific dollar amounts have been established for bad checks, late return of security deposits, or failing to pay renters’ security deposit, is a very rare instance. Seek legal counsel if you feel you have been hurt by bad conduct that is sufficient to justify a claim for punitive damages.
Cases of Emotional and Mental Distress
In urban areas that are increasingly crowded, there are many ways that we can cause each other real pain. If I live in your apartment and pound on my ceiling for an hour every morning at 6:00 am, you will likely become a mad maniac. Is there anything you can do to stop me from ripping my tires?
You can sue me in small claims court, based on my intentional infliction or emotional distress. How much should you sue? It’s not possible to give a formula. It all depends on how offensive my behavior has been for the past few weeks and how clear you have asked me (this should be done multiple times in writing). If this isn’t clear enough, it will also depend on the personality and temperament of the judge. He may be skeptical about neighbor disputes because he believes they aren’t appropriate for court. Before you can be eligible for compensation, you must convince the judge that you are a reasonable person and that your neighbor is a real boor.