Can I sue someone after a car accident even if I was not hurt? Yes, if your car sustained damages you may want to consider suing the other driver for property damage in small claims court. However, before you file your small claims lawsuit consider sending the other driver a demand letter explaining that you haven’t been injured but your car has sustained damages.
Why is Sending a Car Accident Demand Letter Important
If you were in a no-injury car accident and your car sustained damages you might be looking at extensive and costly repairs. If you want the other party to pay for the damages to your car try sending them a demand letter. Also, consider sending a demand letter to their insurance company if they are insured. Here are at least three good reasons we recommend sending a car accident demand letter before filing a lawsuit:
Depending on what state you are filing a small claims court lawsuit in, you may be required to demand payment from the other party before filing. A letter of demand to be reimbursed for car repairs is an effective way of completing this requirement.
Sending a written demand letter for a car accident assures you there is a record of how much you are demanding for the property damage and why you are asking for that amount. So while demands can be made orally, we recommend written demands. There is also no restriction on text messages, but writing a letter can sometimes be very effective as it is a more formal way of sending a demand to a car insurance company and the other party.
The car accident demand letter may lead to a settlement without further legal action.
Do I Need to Hire an Attorney to Write a Demand Letter for a No-injury Car Accident?
Many of our clients ask us if they need an attorney to write a demand letter for minor car accidents. It is up to you if you would like to spend money on an attorney to write a no injury car accident demand letter. You may want to consider quoting different attorneys and weigh your cost versus benefit. The cost of hiring an attorney for a minor no injury car accident is a big factor to consider and many attorneys only handle personal injury car accident claims.
However, if you were in a car accident that resulted in damage to your car and personal injuries you may want to consider speaking with a personal injury attorney since personal injury attorneys normally take cases on a contingency. This means that you only pay if you win. Make sure to look at reviews online to find the best personal injury attorney in your area.
What to Include in your No-injury Car Accident Demand Letter
Unsure of what to include in your no-injury car accident demand letter? Below we have included a sample demand letter as well as some considerations.
Here are a few things to consider adding to your car accident demand letter:
Add a detailed account of the accident. For example, where you stopped at a stop sign when the other party hit your car?
What are you demanding payment for, how was your vehicle damaged? For example, did you have to repair your car windows because they were all damaged in the accident, or was the damage to the engine?
Attach any supporting documents to your demand letter, this can include pictures of the crash or a police report.
Where should the car insurance company or the other party send you payment? Consider including your address in the letter of demand for the car accident.
Estimates for repairs done to your car if you wish to be reimbursed for those repairs.
Consider giving the other party or car insurance company 14 days to respond to you. Include this in your letter, and state that if they do not respond within that time, you intend to file a small claims lawsuit.
Once you have sent a car accident demand letter, keep it for your records. You can bring it to the small claims court hearing and show it to the judge. This is especially handy if the other party states they didn't receive the letter.
Sample Demand Letter for a No-injury Car Accident
Below is a template of a car accident demand letter. The example below concerns a basic car accident where no one was injured but the car was damaged and requires repairs. In this sample demand letter, the person is sending the demand letter to the other driver’s car insurance company. You can use the same template when sending the demand letter to the other party only. Remember this is only an example of a demand letter. Use as many case-specific details when writing your car accident demand letter.
How to Send a No-injury Car Accident Demand Letter
We recommend sending your car accident demand letter via email or mail. You may want to consider sending the letter to both the other driver and their insurance company. For letters that you mail, consider the following:
Tracking. Make sure to track your car accident demand letter. With tracking, you will know if the letter reached the other party and the car insurance company.
Signature Required. You do not necessarily need a signature request. When you send a letter with a signature request, the postal carrier must hand-deliver the letter and the other party must sign the letter.
Once the post office attempts delivery 2-3 times, the post office returns the letter to the sender as "undeliverable." We don't recommend sending demand letters to the other party at a home address with a signature required as it may go undelivered.
Next Steps After Sending a No-injury Car Accident Demand Letter
Consider suing in small claims court
So you sent demand letters and got ignored. What else can you do? At this point, you may want to consider taking the other driver to small claims court. Lawsuits for car repairs after a car accident are very common in small claims court so do not hesitate to file if you have a claim!
How long after you send your car accident demand letter to sue the other party in small claims?
Review your demand letter to see how many days you gave the other driver to pay or respond to you. Normally this is 14 days. If you haven’t heard from the other driveror they have said they are not paying, then it is time to consider suing them in small claims court.
How much can you sue for in small claims?
Each state has a different limit on how much you can sue for in small claims. Most of the time the limit varies between $3,000 - $25,000. For example, in California small claims you can sue for $10,000 while in New York, the limit varies from county to county and can be between $3,000- $10,000.
In general, if the other party owes you more than the amount you can sue for, you can still sue for the maximum amount allowed, but you will need to waive any additional amount over the limit.
How much does it cost to take someone to small claims court over damage to your car?
The amount you will pay to file a small claims lawsuit against someone for property damage varies from state to state but generally is between $15- $75. If you cannot afford to pay court fees, you can ask the court if they have the ability to waive your court fee.
You may also need to pay to notify the other driver you are suing after you file suit. This is called “serving” and ranges from $0- $125. The rules around serving are very specific in each state so make sure to review them.
What is a small claims court hearing like?
Small claims hearings are meant to be quick and informal. Here is what you can expect when you sue someone in small claims court:
Right before the hearing, the judge will ask you and the other driver to show each other the evidence you both have brought to the hearing. Remember to bring your demand letter to the hearing as evidence you tried to reach a settlement before court.
The Judge will ask you why you are suing the other driver in small claims court. The judge will then turn to the other driver and ask them to state their side of the story.
The hearing could last around 15 minutes but every case is different and this depends on many factors.
The judge will ask the other party to show evidence. This can include pictures of the crash, an accident report, estimates, etc. Sometimes the judge will keep the evidence, other times the evidence will be given right back.
Very rarely will a judge tell you in court their decision immediately after the hearing. Instead, the judge will probably tell you and the other driver that the decision will be mailed to you both (which usually takes a few weeks).
How do I prepare for the small claims hearing?
To prepare for your small claims court hearing:
Research the law. If you are unsure about any of the claims you want to make in court or who was at fault consider consulting with an attorney.
Prepare what to say. During the hearing, the judge will ask you and the other party questions about the case. Be prepared to discuss the accident, what happened that caused the damage to your car, and why you think the other party owes you money for your car damages.
Prepare your evidence. You want to have your evidence organized with titles, dates, and why that piece of evidence is important. All your evidence should be geared towards showing the judge why the other driver should pay for the repairs to your car.
Evidence to bring to the hearing:
If you obtained a police report after the accident make sure you bring it with you to the hearing.
If there was someone else in the car with you at the time of the accident bring them with you to the hearing as a witness.
Pictures of the accident or a printout of where you were driving at the time of the accident.
If you have any text messages, emails, or letters where the other party admitted the car accident was their fault bring them to the hearing.
The demand letter. This will show the judge you tried to settle with the other party before escalating to small claims court.
Pictures or videos of the damage to your car. Make sure to bring pictures or videos to the hearing of your car that shows exactly where your car was damaged. If you have pictures of your car before the crash that can be used to compare the damage even better.
Estimates. Make sure to bring any invoices or bills that show how much it will cost to fix your car or how much you paid for repairs.
Legal Educator @ People Clerk. Claudia is a lawyer and certified mediator in New York and Florida. She has participated in dozens of small claims mediations in New York City courts