Utah Small Claims Raised to $15,000 Cap—Effective 05/04/2022
Utah Governor Spencer Cox signed a 2022 Utah Legislature bill raising the Utah Small Claims jurisdiction damage limit to $15,000. Inclusive of attorney fees, but exclusive of costs and interest. In 2030 the Small Claims damage limit is set to automatically raise to $25,000.
The prior damage limits in Utah Small Claims Court was $11,000.
Utah Car Accidents and Small Claims.
The prior $11,000 damage cap was just a bit too low for most car accident cases. With the raised $15,000 small claims court cap many smaller car accident cases can get justice faster and cheaper.
No Expert Witnesses Required in Small Claims Court.
Insurance defense tactics are to require the plaintiff injured party to hire at great cost an expert witness. Often human experience an intuition does not require an expert witness. Expert witnesses only increase the costs and can drag out the proceedings. Initial experts costs are around $2,500 and often much, much more.
Small claims court does not require an expert witness on any issue, although it may be advisable to have an expert. Common rear-end car collisions or people with pre-existing physical injuries who would be required to have an expert witnesses can now go to small claims court and get faster justice for their injuries.
The Utah Small Claims Jury Demand and Car Accident Cases
A while back the Utah Supreme Court held that the common law civil jury trial right applied to small claim proceedings. As a result any defendant can choose to remove a small claims case from the justice court to the district court and demand a jury.
If you are going to have a jury trial with all requirements and time of a jury trial, you don’t want the case capped at $15,000. The constitution and people demand a jury trial right even at small claims. Yet having a jury trial can still eliminate the use of small claims for smaller car accident cases. Supposedly the rules of evidence still not apply on a jury trial small claims case.
No Discovery in Small Claims Car Accident Cases.
There is no discovery in Utah Small Claims Court. There is the use of subpoenas duce tecum (meaning bring documents to court), but there is no written discovery, depositions or initial disclosures common to district court car accident cases.
And really, on small cases, you don’t need a bunch of discovery. For centuries after the founding of this county many cases where tried on limited discovery and the jury was empaneled. Extensive discovery is a modern legal mechanism. See this growing trend to extensive discovery, Utah led the nation in forming discovery limited tiers in district court in 2011.
The Utah Rule of Small Claims Procedure 4A allowing for jury trials in small claims court reads:
Rule 4A. Defendant’s removal to district court.
(a) To exercise the right to a jury trial, a defendant shall:
(a)(1) Within 15 days of being served with the affidavit, file notice of removal in the district court;
(a)(2) pay the appropriate filing fee, unless waived by the district court; and
(a)(3) file a copy of the notice of removal in the small claims court, with the number of the district court case, and proof of service.
(b) Upon filing the notice of removal, the clerk of the justice court shall close its case and the matter shall continue in district court under the Utah Rules of Civil Procedure.
(c) If a case is not removed to district court pursuant to this rule, the right to a jury trial in the first instance is waived and the matter, including any appeal, shall proceed according to these rules.
Is My Car Accident Case Too Small for an Attorney?
Many, many car accident cases valued about below $25,000. A personal injury attorney who really works in this area tends to have a significant load of car accident cases valued below $25,000.