What happens if a small claims case is dismissed?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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What happens if a small claims case is dismissed?

I rear-ended vehicle, we could not settle on damages, so he filed in small claims court. However, he failed to show on the court date; the judge dismissed case. Since then I have received letter from his insurance company demanding $1,400 for damages. Am I liable or is this case closed?

Asked on June 25, 2016 under Accident Law, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

The case is not closed: a dismissal for failure of the plaintiff (person suing) to appear is a dismissal "without prejudice," which means that the case can be brought again, by either the other driver or his insurer.
If his insurer paid his claim due to damage you did to his car, if you were at fault in the accident, you would owe them the money: an insurer may recover amounts it pays from an at-fault driver. And if you rear-ended him, you are almost certainly at fault: the law strongly presumes that the rear driver in a collision like this was at fault since you had an obligation to maintain a safe following distance and to pay attention so as to brake in time. Therefore, it is very likely that you are liable and have to pay.

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