You might need to file a small claim in Philadelphia after an accident such as a car crash, dog bite, or slip and fall. If you were in an accident that caused you $12,000 or less in damages, your claim will qualify for the Small Claims Court in Pennsylvania. The Small Claims Court exists at the Philadelphia Municipal Court. A Philadelphia personal injury attorney can help you file your claim and walk you through the legal process. Use this break down of steps to take to learn what it will take to bring your small claim.
1. Find Out How Much Your Case Is Worth
First, verify that what you have is actually a small claim. If your damages equal more than $12,000, your claim will be too large for the Small Claims Court. Calculate your total damages by adding up your economic losses and estimating your non-economic losses. Economic losses will include medical bills, property damage repairs, lost wages, legal costs, and other out-of-pocket expenses relating to the accident. Your non-economic damages can include physical pain and suffering, emotional distress, and lost quality of life.
It can be difficult to calculate non-economic damages on your own. In a court setting, a jury will look at how the accident impacted your life, and then assign a multiplier between one and five to your economic damages to calculate the non-economic award. This is the most common type of calculation, although the courts may also use the per diem method. Consulting with a personal injury lawyer is the best way to get an accurate and honest representation of what your claim is really worth. Use a free consultation to discover the potential value of your case. It is less than $12,000, continue with the small claims process. If it is worth more, hire a personal injury lawyer in Philadelphia.
2. Gather the Correct Information
Before you begin the small claims process, you must gather all relevant information relating to your case. This will include the defendant’s full name, correct address, and a description of your accident, injuries, and losses. You cannot use a P.O. Box as the defendant’s address. Verify that the defendant either lives in Philadelphia or your accident occurred in Philadelphia. Otherwise, you may need to file your small claim with a different Small Claims Court. Make sure all information you provide is correct to avoid a delay during the claims process.
You will also need to collect documentation relating to your accident claim to serve as proof during your civil claim. Documents you need may include your initial insurance claim, communications from insurance companies, medical records, hospital bills, correspondence between you and the defendant, photographs of the accident or damages, invoices, business contracts, and estimates for property damage repairs or replacements. Keep all these documents organized in one place.
3. Go to the Philly Courts
Once you have collected all pertinent claim information and documents, visit the Philadelphia Municipal Court in person. The Small Claims Court hears negligence actions and business contract claims. Visit the First Filing Offices at 1339 Chestnut Street (10th floor). Bring your action by completing and signing the Authorized Representative form. Interviewers are available at the court to help you file your claim.
4. Show Up to Court and Prove Your Case
After the claims filling process, you will receive a court date on which you and the defendant will present your sides of the case before a judge. Show up to your court date on time, or else the courts will enter a default judgment against you. You and the defendant may reach an agreement before going to court through the Dispute Resolution Program.
If this does not work, your case will go to trial before a judge. To win your case, you will need to rove through a preponderance of evidence that the defendant owed you a duty of care, breached this duty, and caused your accident and injuries. Be polite and never interrupt the judge or defendant. Speak to a personal injury lawyer in Philadelphia if you need help with your case.