Small claims court is a special court that is established to handle smaller cases in a quick and inexpensive manner.
The setting is pretty informal and the rules are simplified for those involved.
Some of the most common cases brought to the small claims court are:
- Liable party in car accident does not want to pay for repairs
- Landlord does not want to return deposit
- Store would not repair or replace defective product
- Unpaid loans or debts
To understand the process, here are answers to some Small Claims FAQ:
What kinds of cases can be filed in Small Claims Court?
Just the small ones; the cases filed in small claims court are usually for small money disputes that is just too impractical to bring to a higher court.
The small claims court can also be used for eviction and restitution of property.
How much is the limit that can be sued for in Small Claims Court?
In California, small claims court can handle cases where the monetary conflict is $7,500 or less although there is some clamor to raise this limit.
In other states, the limit range is between $3,000 and $10,000.
Where can I find a small claims court?
You have to file your claim on the right county small claims court so that it will not be dismissed.
Here are some of the rules:
- File the claim on the county where contract was signed.
- If defendant is a corporation, file it in the county where contract was broken or where the defendant's business is located.
- If the defendant owes you money but there is no signed contract, file it in the county where he lives.
- For unpaid sales, you have to file in the county where the buyer lives, where the buyer signed the contract or where the sale occurred.
Generally, the most convenient rule is to file the claim at the county where the defendant is located.
How do I file my claim in a Small Claims Court?
Here is a guide about the process of filing in a small claims court:
- Talk to the person you are about to sue and try to work things out without suing. Try alternative dispute resolution (ADR) processes like mediation.
- If it cannot be resolved, then you may have to resort to filing a claim. You have to find the right county small claims court to file your claim (see above).
- You will need to fill out the Plaintiff's claim and Order to go to Small Claims Court (Form SC-100). The court clerk may ask you to sign other forms as well.
- Serve the defendant/s before the deadline.
- Prepare your case then go to court on scheduled hearing.
A good way to prepare is to watch other small claims hearing to get a feel of the process.
Will I be able to collect if I win?
Maybe. You may win the judgment but the court will not collect your money if you win.
You will have to do it yourself.
That is why you should consider first if the person you are suing will be able to pay you before filing a claim.