I always seem to get inspiration and renewed vitality by contact with this great novel land of yours which sticks up out of the Atlantic.
As a citizen of the United States of America, this will be my first test of its justice system. Not that I doubt it in any way. During the holidays two cars were involved in an accident in front of our home. It was on Dec 14th and the day of a snow storm. At around 9:30 PM I noticed police activity on the street. Snow was still falling pretty and I didn’t think much about it. Next day morning as I went to pick up the mail, I noticed something was odd. Our mail box stood there bare-top. I had recently gotten a masonry mailbox done at a steep expense as the older mailbox was getting rusty. However much the manufacturers tout that they have rust free coating, etc, these cannot stand the elements beyond a few years. I used to repaint the older mailbox once a year or so, but that wasn’t good enough. The old mailbox was a pretty decent one costing about $200 at that time. It was quite a project to put it up myself – my first tryst with pouring concrete and having the satisfaction of a mini-project for our home. Anyway, I couldn’t stand the rusty mailbox and didn’t want to buy a new one only to have it rust again in a few years. So I had decided to stand up a masonry mail box. This had turned out very pretty and was very happy with it.
After I noticed the new mail box was damaged – half of the stucco and structure had been knocked off and the pier had slanted after the impact – I had to call the police to file a report. After I mentioned that there was police activity, they basically updated the same report and the trooper recorded that the second car had caused the damage. Talking to the insurance company, I was told that the other party caused the damage. Allstate denied their party’s responsibility and it went on. I had to go back and forth between the two insurance companies. Now, the cost of the damage was estimated at $1200. If it were not that significant, I would have just let it go.
Since both parties denied their causing the damage, I started hunting for a lawyer. Since none of the parties is responsible, I didn’t have to worry about any costs myself. The responsible parties would have to pay when the time came. A few lawyers I called said they don’t represents plaintiffs, something new I learnt. Some basically didn’t call back due to the amount involved – not worth their time. I happened to come across a public adjuster – Rick Kenney – who advised that I had to file a ‘small claims’ law suit in my district’s court and their would be fee involved. The fee would be reimbursed to me after the judgement. It might take about 3 months for the court to settle it. My other option was to approach my home owner’s insurance company (Allstate again), who would pay for the damages but with my deductible, which is hefty by the way, and they would go after the other insurance company and settle it among themselves and later reimburse me my deductible. This alternative would take a year approximately. I decided to file a small claims lawsuit in the interest of time.
As I was driving to the court, it felt good that there is a working system of law in this country and that I could look forward to a judgement in a matter of 3 months. Coming from where I was born, this is unthinkable. I doubt even if those who caused the accident would have stayed put for the police to come or even if they did, if the police would have arrived in time to record the incident due to the nature of the accident (no deaths).
I filled up the one-sheet complaint and was advised to pay a fee of about $119. I should be getting additional mail for documentation and a first court hearing date for which I don’t have to be present. The first date is a tentative date for the parties to respond after which a hearing will be set. I need to be there for that hearing. I will be experiencing the law of the land first hand as a citizen. Fortunately there is no injuries caused to me or anyone near to me that I need to be fighting against. I will know how effective the court system works. I will know who fair the judge will be. I will know how the issue will be resolved and how the parties involved will own-up. A lot to prove that the elements of the justice system is in place in this land.