First let me apologize, I posted this in the Small Claims subforum before I found this subforum, I wasn't sure which was more appropriate. Admit feel free to delete one of them if you feel it necessary. :)
I have ended up in a bit of a situation and I'm not sure what to do really.. It's a little complicated but I'll try to explain as clearly as possible, sorry if I get a little long winded, I'll try to keep it as short as possible. :) ... This accident occurred in Washington, so obviously those are the laws that would apply.
I was driving down the road, a woman pulled out in front of me from a side street, cutting me off. As a result of her cutting me off, I was in close proximity to her (sort of unavoidable when someone pulls out in front of you) ... Of course I slowed so I didn't hit her, once I reduced my speed to avoid the collision, I immediately reacted by "flipping her off" (she immediately looked in her rearview after pulling out in front of me) ... Her reaction to this, was to slam on her brakes, causing a collision. This whole series of events was around 3-5 seconds long, so this was not one of those situations where I was intentionally tailgating her for any length of time/distance.
She was cited for "Failure to yield", and I of course got the obligatory "following too close". I intend to hire an attorney and fight the ticket, arguing I was close because she pulled out in front of me. Hopefully it will be reduced to a non-moving violation or something.
Currently due to that ticket, her insurance company is holding me 100% at fault. I only have liability so my insurance won't pay to fix my car either.
After the "following too close" ticket is dealt with, I want to try to get, at least some of my damages recovered from the woman who intentionally caused the accident.
I realize most of the time, a rear end collision is a crap situation and everyone knows it (hence the reason she thought she could get away with it)... However I have evidence that she intentionally caused this to happen.
First, her own statement to the police was that "she noticed me tailgating her, flipper her off", "a moment later" she noticed she was going 5mph over the speedlimit, then "a moment later she applied her brakes"... The cop didn't believe her side of the story, which is the reason he tried to emphasize that the moment before she hit her brakes that she knew I was there.
Second, the damage on her car is 7-8inches lower than the damage on my car, showing she slammed on her brakes (after admitting knowing I was there), causing the back of her car to raise way up in the air. I have an accident reconstructionist firm (expert witness) willing to write a statement to that effect, including that there is no other explanation for the height difference in the damage.
Last "arguement" is that she did get the ticket for "failure to yield right of way"... So I was not the only "law breaker" in the situation.
I believe I have a case to get her/her insurance to pay at least some of the damages on my car (I'd personally say her intentionally causing it trumps me being too close to her, especially if I get that ticket dropped)... From what I understand about Washington being a "pure comparative fault" state, if she has partial liability I believe I should be award damages equal to the percentage of liability...?
However I'm not sure how to proceed. Her insurance won't pay, they blame me 100% (of course), so I would have to sue.
The damages add up to $3700 or so, plus I'll need a rental car for the time its in the shop... I'd guess maybe $4700 or so total, maybe a bit less, not sure exactly. Because of the dollar amount, it seems to be an issue for small claims.
In small claims I think I could pretty easily make a case for at least 50% of the damages, however I'm worried about what her insurance is going to do to counter this? In Washington attorneys are not allowed in small claims court, I heard that it might be possible for the insurance company to move it out of small claims into normal court.
Is this possible in WA? Seems to sort of screw me because I can't really represent myself in "normal" court. Or how would this be handled? Doesn't seem fair that they can just move it from small claims to normal court. :/
I'm disabled and on a fixed income, so I'm not sure hiring an attorney to fight this in "normal" court is feasible, and if I could afford it, I have no idea how much this could cost in legal fees. If I could do it for $1000-1500 it might be worth it, but if it would get much more expensive I might lose it all in legal expenses. Seems like it would be a quick legal case, I'd imagine all of 10 minutes in small claims, but I have no idea how much "bigger" real court can get.
One last thought I had, not sure if it's worth even talking about, but I thought maybe I could sue her in small claims for aggrevated assault/battery (since I can hopefully prove via proponderance of evidence) that she intentionally assaulted me resulting in property damage. My thoughts are that this takes it out of being a simple accident liability case, in which her insurance might be able to defend her and put it in normal court, and keeps it a civil case about an assault case in which the car was the weapon?
Seems logical to me, but I'm probably closer to a Vulcan than an attorney. :)
What would you do in my situation?
Whew, that was a lot to get out... Anyway, if any of you have any advice that might help I would be deeply grateful.