“A family member hit my car and won’t pay for the damage.” You’d be surprised how often we hear that statement. This type of situation can get really ugly really fast.
It’s almost unbelievable to think that a person could do this to someone else, especially to a family member, but it happens.
Continue reading to learn what to do if you’re in this situation.
It would be terrible for something as minor as a little fender-bender to ruin your relationship with someone in your family. One way to keep that from happening could be to attend mediation in hopes of solving the issue.
Mediation isn’t like going to court or arbitration because it’s conducted by a neutral third-party whose goal is to help people reach a mutually-agreeable solution to a legal problem, and a decision isn’t made for you.
A mediator might provide an unbiased opinion or recommendation, but the parties to the mediation ultimately make the decision. In addition to allowing the parties to be in control, mediation is confidential, and anything that’s said or offered in mediation can’t be brought into later court proceedings.
If you’re considering this course of action, it’s important to note that both you and your family member must be willing to come to a mutual agreement, even if you’re starting miles apart. Otherwise, you’ll both be wasting your time.
If you think that an agreement is possible, there are a lot of ways that mediation could be beneficial. Here are a few to keep in mind:
If either one of you thinks that mediation won’t work, or if you tried mediation and couldn’t reach an agreement, you can consider taking the matter to small claims court, which is also known as magistrate court in Georgia.
You’ll have this option as long as the damage to your car is less than $15,000. While it’s a relatively inexpensive and fast alternative to a civil suit, it’s also more complicated.
If both of you decide to go the small claims route, you (the plaintiff) must request a hearing. Your family member (the defendant) will need to file an answer before the hearing date can be set. The hearing is usually 15-30 days after the defendant’s answer.
There are quite a few things you can do to help improve your chances of winning your case, including:
Some counties in Georgia require that you attend mediation, just in case there’s a chance you can settle your differences. If mediation doesn’t work, the judge will inform you of proper courtroom procedure, then will hear oral argument from both sides.
What if the defendant doesn’t file an answer with the court, or doesn’t show up for the hearing? If that’s the case, the judge may grant a default judgment in your favor, which basically means you’ll be awarded the costs of your damage and court costs.
The defendant has 30 days to answer the claim. If they don’t, they will be able to contest the default judgment by filing their answer and paying any court costs that may apply.
This can obviously be a very stressful, very frustrating situation. But don’t let it get the best of you. Talk to Macon car accident lawyer Mike Rafi to see how we may be able to help. Schedule a consultation by contacting Mike online or calling (478) 216-1664.