Finding yourself at the receiving end of a personal property damage claim can be frustrating and time-consuming. If you don’t have the money to pay for an accident that may or may not have been caused by your negligence, you may need to turn to an experienced auto accidents lawyer to make sure that you aren’t ordered to pay a huge sum of money for something that wasn’t your fault – or worse, end up with a conviction on your record. Your auto accidents attorney will help you minimize the damage, and may even be able to help you win the case altogether.
In most cases, someone who files a personal property damage lawsuit in small claims court will file a negligence claim. Negligence claims operate on the theory that you knew there was a problem with your vehicle and did nothing about it. For example, if you smashed into your neighbor’s fence while driving because your brakes suddenly stopped working and you knew they needed repair, it would be a case of negligence. You will need to prove that you didn’t know there was a problem with your brakes, or that there shouldn’t have been a problem with your brakes (if you just had the brake pads changed, for example), in order to win the case.
Intentional Damage Claims
Intentional damage cases are rarer than negligence claims, and are fortunately easier to defend in many circumstances. Using the earlier example, your neighbor could claim that you destroyed his fence on purpose because of a long-standing rivalry between your families. In this case, you will simply need to prove an extenuating circumstance that caused you to run into his fence – for example, the road was slick from the rain that day and you slid out in the middle of a turn. Even if he could prove negligence at this point, perhaps by saying that you knew you needed new tires or you were driving too fast, he would have to file a separate negligence claim instead to benefit from the accident.
What You Can Do
Immediately after an accident that involves personal property damage, the best way to start building a strong defense is to stay on the scene until the police arrive so you can give a statement. This will show the courts that you were willing to cooperate from the beginning in case a claim is ever filed. Take pictures of anything and everything that might help your case, and keep every piece of insurance paperwork you file and repair estimates you collect.
Hiring an Auto Accidents Lawyer
As soon as you find out that you are begin sued for property damage, consult an accidents attorney to find out what steps you need to take next. You should have a little time to prepare, but having an attorney on your side can help you take the most advantage of that time. With a good accidents lawyer on your side, you will be able to build the strongest defense possible and hopefully avoid paying anything out-of-pocket to the plaintiff.