I find myself in an interesting, although obnoxiously annoying, predicament. I have experienced more frustration when dealing with the American court system than any other episode of my life. This is yet another prime example of justice at work.
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A few months ago as I was leaving to go to work in the morning, a lost man pulled into my driveway to turn around. Unfortunately, I was using my driveway at the time, and our cars impacted. It wasn't a big deal, just inconvenient. My car had $900 in damages, his car had $1400. Since this occurred on private property, the police could not respond which left me with no document determining fault. His insurance company paid to have his car fixed, but wouldn't pay for mine, which I thought was unfair.
I took him to small claims court, and he hired a lawyer. We live way out in a rural area, and he hired a guy from Richmond. He has had to pay this lawyer several hundred dollars more than I was asking for- and that's just for the drive-time involved!
So here we are, four months since this accident and we finally went to court. (We were taken quickly, because one of us was a lawyer.) Within five minutes the case was dismissed. When the judge asked me what proof I had to determine the amount of damages, I handed him the computer generated printout of the estimate I received two days after the accident. The company letterhead was at the top, and since this is a rural area, the mechanic and shop are very well known. The judge and the body-shop guy probably went to high-school together. -But I didn't have the estimate notarized, with an explanation of what made Calvin an "expert" at auto repair, and so the estimate was determined to be "hearsay", and inadmissible. I had nothing else to prove the amount of damages, and so -done.
My recourse? Appeal. Spend several more months, and at least another $100 trying to get this resolved. Now it is really the principle of the thing, and now I'm pissed.
I went to file the paperwork for the appeal, and then I went to talk to the magistrate. Since I have a "no trespassing" sign posted at the entry to my driveway, could I file a criminal trespass charge against this guy, what would that do to him, and would I have a better chance of getting money to fix my car?
(A side note- About a month before this incident in my driveway, I hit a cow. It was black and standing in the middle of a two-lane country highway at ten o'clock at night. I did nearly $8000 worth of damage to my 2006 Charger. The insurance company can't raise your rates for this type of accident, but since I'd only had my car back for a week, I really didn't want to call my insurance company on this one. Plus I really believe that he is responsible for the damage done.)
Anyway, the magistrate said he'd never run into a situation such as this, and he'd look into it and get back to me. He called me at 12:45 in the morning to tell me I should press charges. He sounded madder than I was! Apparently this could lead to jail time -which I know it won't- but it will stay on his record for 7 to 11 years, and I could be awarded up to three times the damages requested.
I feel bad doing this, but the man hired a lawyer from Richmond! What a schmuck! Instead of just giving me a lousy $900.
This saga continues...