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I've never used small claims court before and I am a little hesitant. My two options are to sue her directly through small claims, or use an attorney who wants to sue the insurance company. I would have to pay the attorney 40% and my claim is only for around $7k. Here is my situation:

Nearly two years ago on 10/28/14 a woman did a hit and run on my car in California. She was caught, taken to jail and now nearly two years later I've been subpoenaed to appear in court because the state is suing her for a DUI. Her lawyer has pushed the case back and back until finally, she failed to appear and now has a bench warrant out for her arrest. I've given the court a "Victim Impact Statement" describing what happened and the diminished value to my car, with a full diminished value (DV) report from a firm I hired to create it. The paperwork prepared by the firm states that I am owed $7k in diminished value

Last year I submitted the DV report and several responses back and fourth with her insurance, all through mail to have evidence and of course they are denying responsibility. Their reason being a prior fender bender that my car was involved in before I bought the car, maybe a $1000 claim for a tiny dent. Otherwise, my car had been in pristine condition, two months out of the 5 years 100K mile warranty.

I've spoken to an attorney that was recommended to me by the firm that prepared my DV report. This attorney "would love to represent me" for 40%, but won't do it any less since it is only a $7k claim. So I decided I should do the small claims and he recommended that I seek "punitive damages" as well to make the insurance company take my claim more seriously.

Does anyone have any advice?? I have no court experience and I'm just afraid that this woman will never pay. My car has been repaired but it isn't quite the same, small things really, but I had plans to sell my car while it was under 100k miles until the car was repaired and I saw that it had frame damage, now I know when selling it'll be hard for me to get a good value, I have to disclose the accident! What I'm really wondering is if I sue this woman directly, her insurance company will be responsible for paying me? I don't have confidence that she will even show up in court, much less pay, considering she won't show up for her DUI trial. Should I just have the attorney represent me and take the 40% hit and call it fair?

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$7K in DV on a 5-year old car. What is this, a Rolls Royce?

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Punitive damages for diminished value in small claims court? Not unless your judge is Captain Kangaroo.

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I am not a lawyer but I do not see how you are going to get any money out of a woman who has disappeared and has a warrant out for her arrest. Your only hope is to get it out of her insurance company. This diminished value claim seems iffy to me as does trying to get punitive damages. Why not sue the insurance company in small claims court for the amount you paid to have your car repaired? Seems like you would be money ahead since you would not have to pay a lawyer 40% of the take.

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Crazytree said:   Punitive damages for diminished value in small claims court? Not unless your judge is Captain Kangaroo.
  

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civ2k1 said:   Crazytree said:   Punitive damages for diminished value in small claims court? Not unless your judge is Captain Kangaroo.
  

Funny, I think I appeared before him a few weeks ago..

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stanolshefski said:   $7K in DV on a 5-year old car. What is this, a Rolls Royce?
  
It sounds like a 3 year old car was damaged.
Just what does a carfax crash history do to the value of a car these days, anyway?
I know the insurance companies that offer $300 are full of it, but $7k sounds too high.

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taxmantoo said:   stanolshefski said:   $7K in DV on a 5-year old car. What is this, a Rolls Royce?
  
It sounds like a 3 year old car was damaged.
Just what does a carfax crash history do to the value of a car these days, anyway?
I know the insurance companies that offer $300 are full of it, but $7k sounds too high.



OP said car was 5 y/o, not 3 and had been in another wreck already. Maybe it wasn't a Rolls, Bentley perhaps?

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A 5 year/100,000 mile warranty?  Sounds like a Chevy to me.

$7k in diminished value?  Yeah, right...

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File the suit against the other driver and their insurance co.Punitive damages are allowed in certain states only,make sure your state allows it.Have any paperwork that shows the other driver was charged with DUI and follow the outcome.The limits of your small claims court is most likely $10,000.Car repair at $7000 ,doesnt leave much room.If you are including DV and punitive you have to show the court you were damaged.That shouldn't be so hard with a dui involved.The judge will make the decision so you will need all your evidence of hit and run and criminal charges as well.Punitive damages if awarded will be decided by the judge.Most lawyers will not bother with punitive they will go after the insurance companies only yours and the other drivers.Its easier to prove and collect.If you can show proof that the ins co failed to negotiate in good faith and they refused your settlement offer ,they may be liable for punitive and actual damages.Otherwise if the other driver has nothing to take you will have a worthless judgement that will be very hard to collect on and costly.The first thing to do would be a well written letter of demand to other driver and his insurance company.Give them a short time limit to respond then file ,just before the court date the ins co most likely will contact you to settle.If your insurer paid for repairs they will take the repair amount from any monies you will be awarded.I am not an atty ,but have gone through this type of situation recently.

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dcwilbur said:   A 5 year/100,000 mile warranty?  Sounds like a Chevy to me.

$7k in diminished value?  Yeah, right...

  Could be a high end Caddy

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alamo11 said:   dcwilbur said:   A 5 year/100,000 mile warranty?  Sounds like a Chevy to me.

$7k in diminished value?  Yeah, right...

  Could be a high end Caddy



Or a low-end Spark.

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