Small Claims Court

What is small claims court and how do I file

What Is Small Claims Court?

There are a seemingly endless number of ways for individuals to harm each other. If someone has wronged you in some manner, you may be able to pursue compensation from the responsible person. You may not, though, need to file a traditional civil lawsuit. Provided your damages fall within your state’s small claims court limit, you can go through an expedited process. That is, you may be able to seek redress for your financial damages in small claims court.

Small court claims do not have to be nominal. On the contrary, many states allow civil litigants to seek compensation for their damages even if they range into the thousands of dollars. Before filing a civil case in small claims court, though, you must understand the limited jurisdiction of these courts. By working with an experienced small claims court lawyer, you better understand your legal options. You also receive the legal counsel and dedication you need to win your case.

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What Types of Claims Can You File In Small Claims Court?

Most plaintiffs who enter small claims court have claims that involve money. That is, small claims court is often an effective way to collect on a bad debt. Nonetheless, there are many different types of cases that you can likely address in a small claims. Some of the types of disputes that you can settle in small claims court include the following:

  • Clothing damaged during cleaning or alterations
  • A car that a mechanic did not repair properly
  • An appliance that a repair technician did not service correctly
  • A loan that someone failed to repay fully
  • A security deposit that a landlord did not return
  • A contract that a supplier did not fulfill

Many states allow a broader range of cases to proceed through small claims court. Depending on the state where you reside, other types of cases that can be accepted into small claims. An attorney can help you better understand if your dispute is eligible. Nonetheless, if any of the following apply to you, you may be able to seek relief in your state’s small claims court:

You must realize, though, that small claims courts have limited jurisdiction. Typically, judges in these courts do not have the authority to hear claims that are worth a significant monetary value. Therefore, you must understand your state’s small claims court limit. You also need to know whether your state allows for you to file your type of civil case in small claims court.

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What Is the Small Claims Court Process?

If you have a matter that falls within  the jurisdiction of your state’s small claims court, you can seek financial compensation and other relief by filing a lawsuit there. On the other hand, if someone thinks you have caused damage, he or she may file a suit in small claims court against you. Either way, the process unfolds the same way.

First, the plaintiff, the person bringing the suit, files a complaint in small claims court. Often, court clerks have forms for plaintiffs to use. These forms may or may not be legally required to proceed with a claim. After filing the claim, it is typically necessary to serve a complaint on the opposing party. This complaint states the nature of the claim and tells the defendant how to proceed.

Eventually, the clerk schedules the matter for a hearing before the small claims judge. Before going to this hearing, though, you want to prepare yourself with evidence to back up your claim or your defense. Your attorney plays an invaluable role in the process. That is, he or she can help ensure you have sufficient documentation to meet your legal obligation. If there is a process issue, the attorney can also help you resolve it.

After you have presented your case, the judge issues an order. Although this typically occurs on the same day as your hearing, it may take some time after the hearing concludes. Then, you can use the court’s order to collect on the judgement. Alternatively, the judge may ask you and the opposing party to negotiate a settlement to the matter. Either way, your small claims lawyer can help you decide how to proceed.

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Work With an Experienced Local Lawyer

Using a small claims court allows you to pursue the claims of a smaller value, in a less formal setting.

Hiring a small claims lawyer gives you access to a professional who is dedicated to seeing your case win. An attorney can also provide you with advice on whether or not you should pursue action against the party you are looking to take to court.

In addition, an experienced small claims attorney may also provide you with representation in court if your state allows that. A lawyer may be able to give you assistance in obtaining evidence in your claim, as well as pointing out what evidence is or is not admissible in the proceeding.

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