How many estimates must I bring to court to discredit an insurer’s low estimate?

Car from NY was parked in NJand got damaged. The other driver’s insurer offered a very low estimate. What I must bring to court to prove my damages? I am planning to sue the other person not their insurance company. I have gotten 2 estimates in NY for over $2,000 each ($2400 and $2895). Where as the insurance company offered only $1645. What is best type defense in such situation? My estimates do not include car rental, which I want to add as a part of the claim. Car is drivable but once left at the mechanic it will stay there for at least 2-3 days.

Asked on December 6, 2010 under Accident Law, New Jersey


S.L,. Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Since you are a resident of NJ and the accident occurred in NJ, you should file your lawsuit in Small Claims Court in NJ.  A lawsuit can be filed where the plaintiff resides or where the defendant resides or where the claim arose.  If the other driver is from NY, you could file in NY, but for convenience purposes such as the court appearance and filing documents, it may be preferable to file the lawsuit in NJ.  The fact that the car is from NY does not require you to get estimates in NY.  You could get the estimates in NJ and if you file your lawsuit in NJ, the judge will probably ask why you didn't get repair estimates in NJ.  A couple of estimates would refute the insurance company's low figure.

As for the rental car, the other driver's insurance carrier should pay for that.  If the other driver's insurance carrier refuses to pay for the rental car, you could recover those costs in your lawsuit.  You will need to mitigate (minimize) damages with regard to the repairs and the rental car.  This means that the repair shop you select would have to charge a rate comparable to other repair shops in the area.  If you select a repair shop that is charging an exorbitant rate, your damages will be reduced.  The same applies to the rental car.  In order to mitigate damages, you won't be able to select a very expensive rental car or your damages will be reduced.  You can select a rental car that has a reasonable cost.

In addition to damages for the cost of repairs and the rental car, your lawsuit in Small Claims Court should also include  the recovery of court costs.  Court costs would include the court filing fee and the process server fee.

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