If you have a righteous personal injury case, you would think that finding a lawyer to help you should be a walk in the park - especially since there are almost 180,000 active lawyers in California according to the California state bar website. However, there are many reasons why qualified personal injury lawyers might not be able to take your case. To name just a few:
- The legal and factual issues in your case might fall outside their areas of expertise,
- They might be too busy with their current caseload to take on another case, or
- They might not think the amount of money you could recover would justify the costs required to pursue your case.
Let me elaborate on that last point. Pursuing a personal injury case from beginning to end - whether that's a settlement or a verdict - can be expensive. Ordering medical records and reports, investigating the incident scene, consulting with experts, filing paperwork with the court, hiring court reporters, taking depositions, subpoenaing witnesses, hiring mediators, and other fact-specific actions all cost money. Then there are the attorney fees, which are calculated based upon a percentage of the recovery. After weighing all those costs against your estimated recovery, a qualified personal injury lawyer might conclude that at the end of the day you would rather not have gone through all the trouble of pursuing your case. Sadly, that is why many meritorious cases are not pursued and the wrongfully injured are not made whole.
Fortunately, if you cannot find a personal injury lawyer to help you there is an option to pursue your case quickly and inexpensively on your own: small claims court. Small claims court is a place where people can resolve their disputes without lawyers because the rules are relatively simple and informal. You do not need to know the law, only right from wrong. There are no rules of evidence, so you can bring whatever papers or items you need to prove your case. It's just you, the person who wronged you, and the judge.
Below are some helpful links to learn more about the small claims court process:
- California Courts - Small Claims Court Basics
- California State Bar - How to Use Small Claims Court
- Los Angeles Superior Court - Small Claims Court General Information
- Los Angeles County Bar Association - Small Claims Workshop and Clinic
- Los Angeles County Department of Consumer Affairs - Small Claims Advisor Service
Remember: if you are seriously injured then it is always best to consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer first. Small claims court should be a last resort because the maximum recovery is $10,000 generally, and $7,500 for personal injury cases resulting from a car accident where the at fault driver is covered by an automobile insurance policy that includes a duty to defend.