Small Claims Court - General Information
Small claims court is a quick, informal and low-cost way to resolve disputes over money debts. The court considers and resolves cases involving money debts only and the amount considered varies by State and may range from a low of $2000 to a high of $15,000. (call your local court to verify the amount).
Small Claims Court General Rules
- Attorney or other legal paraprofessionals are allowed in most states however, they are almost never needed if you PREPARE!
- Claims cannot exceed state-specific dollar amounts;
- You cannot bring a claim on behalf of another person;
- Individuals, corporations, partnerships and associations can file a claim in Small Claims Court BUT only if represented by a non-lawyer.
- Only the plaintiff, defendant, and witnesses can participate in a small claims court trial (if the judge agrees, exceptions can be made)
NOTE: Small claims courts do not issue any order requiring someone to do something or not do something, such as a restraining order or an injunction.
Types of Claims that can be filed in Small Claims Court (these are just a few examples)
- Damage to your *car or personal property by someone with no insurance;
- You are owed money by someone who has failed to repay you;
- You are owed wages by someone who refuses to pay you;
- A tenant has failed to pay you rent;
- Landlord / Tenant problems (i.e. refusal to return deposits);
- You were sold defective merchandise and vendor refuses a refund;
- A laundry/drycleaner lost or damaged your clothes but refuses to pay to repair/replace your clothes;
- Car Repairs
- Purchased Used Car (New cars usually fall under Lemon Laws)
- Collecting Bad Debts
- Property damage
- Product and Warranty problems
Filing Fees Small Claims Court
There is is a small fee (national average is $20) for filing your claim in small claims court. This is payable at the time you file the notice of small claim forms either in person or by mail.
If you win, this fee is considered part of the costs to bring the claim to court and is added to the judgment thus allowing you to recover the fee from the defendant.
* Generally injuries to persons in a traffic accident are not appropriate for Small Claims Court because medical bills usually exceed the maximum amount allowed in small claims court.