While many consumers are happy with their insurers, others may feel compelled to file formal complaints, or more seriously, sue their insurance companies in small claims court. Small claims courts serve ordinary citizens by allowing them to sue individuals and businesses, often without legal representation. There are various steps involved in filing a lawsuit in small claims court against an insurance company.
Construct a comprehensive list of your grievances against the insurance company. Gather any records you may have, including notes about discussions you may have had with employees of the company. Create a file with documents about your policy, such as declarations pages, insurance cards, claims letters and notices of cancellation. Write out a chronological synopsis of any notable transactions that may have taken place between you and the insurance company. These documents may become evidence in the case.
Contact witnesses, claims adjusters, insurance agents and anyone else who may have knowledge of your case. If you speak with any representatives from the insurance company about your case, write down the date, the time, the name of your contact person and detailed notes about the discussion. Make a list of the names, addresses and phone numbers of individuals who may appear on your behalf (this list may include witnesses or subject-matter experts). You'll need your list when completing the paperwork necessary to file your lawsuit.
Ask those parties who support your claim to write an affidavit with information containing their knowledge of the case. Get these letters notarised before taking them to court.
Go to the civil court located in your county and request the paperwork needed to file a small claim. Provide your full name and contact information on the paperwork provided; indicate the full name of the insurance company and any parties you plan to name as defendants. If the person or people named are business owners, be sure to indicate pertinent information concerning their company's organisation. For instance, write down whether the defendant is a sole proprietorship, a partnership or a corporation. If you aren't sure, contact your Secretary of State and request the company's articles of incorporation: This document will show how the insurance company or defendant's business is organised.
Provide information about the dollar amount for which you're suing and the reason why you're owed this money. Provide any other information requested on the form before signing it and submitting it to the civil court system in your county. Pay the filing fee.
Attend your court hearing(s). Be prepared to give a detailed testimony concerning your grievance. The judge will apply the law to your case and will be swayed by the evidence you can or cannot provide. Gather information about insurance statutes in your state that may apply to your case; these statutes can usually be found on the state insurance commissioner's website.
Bring paperwork and other evidence that's supportive of any time lines you plan to discuss; this evidence can include declarations pages, insurance cards, bills, receipts, letters from the company, recorded voice messages from representatives of the company, photographs and documents related to any pertinent claims that may have been filed.
Your state may waive your filing fee if you're a low-income citizen or disabled. It may be necessary to obtain legal representation if your case is complex. Every state has limitations on the dollar amounts for which you can sue in small-claims court.
Tips and warnings
- Your state may waive your filing fee if you're a low-income citizen or disabled.
- It may be necessary to obtain legal representation if your case is complex.
- Every state has limitations on the dollar amounts for which you can sue in small-claims court.