Cracked Windshield

A lady was driving down my street and slammed on her brakes in front of my home. My dog was on my property (I have witnesses to say the same) but the lady’s claiming my dog ran in the street. As a result of her slamming on the brakes, her windshield cracked due to the force of her dogs head hitting it. She is currently taking me to small claims court and sueing me for $500. When I called the cops, they wrote up a report and said they were doing so in order for her to make her insurance claim. Am I liable?? See claims she was going under the speed limit.

Asked on June 14, 2009 under Insurance Law, Michigan

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

Whether you are legally liable depends on whether you--or something under your control or which you are responsible for, like your dog--caused the accident. Assuming that your dog did not run into the street and you can prove it (you have your witnesses), then it sounds like there are no facts that would establish liability.

However, if she does or has filed a claim against you in small claims court,  don't ignore it! If you fail to answer her claim or show up for court, you will lose by default (it's like one team forfeiting a game by not showing up to play) and you'll have to pay. Call the Clerk of your local court to find out the rules for defending yourself in small claims court--what kind of evidence or witnesses you can bring--and again, make sure you show up for court.

A $500 claim is probably not worth getting an attorney for; small claims is usually defended by the person him/herself.

Also find out from the court what kind of information you can demand from the woman suing you and how you can get it. If she had bad eyesight or some other medical condition that made driving difficult, or has a history of accidents or filing claims, you will be in a better place to show that her claim is false. Finally, check with your state's motor vehicle dept. and find out what sort of info, and how to get it, you can get about someone suing you over a motor vehicle accident. It would be good to know if her license was suspended, for example.


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