How to Sue in Small Claims Court
Filing a lawsuit in small claims seems intimidating but the best way to prepare is to arm yourself with legal knowledge. In this article, we will go through the procedure of suing in small claims court and how DoNotPay can help.
When is Small Claims Court the Answer?
Suing in small claims court is reserved for cases that can be resolved financially, quickly, and cost-effectively. It is suitable for disputes that do not involve a lot of money. In some states, the maximum amount of damages is from $3,000 and $10,000, while others can be as high as $25,000. If your amount exceeds the maximum, you must take your lawsuit to a different court or opt for arbitration.
Small claims judges can only rule to award financial compensation, but not to send a person to drug rehabilitation facilities or community service. Small claims court is less rigid than regular court and less expensive too. In some states, lawyers are not needed, but when they are, lawyers can’t charge lawyer fees.
Here are some examples of disputes that are suitable for claims court, and some that are not:
|A debtor who has refused to pay you the money they owe you||Filing for divorce|
|A mechanic not properly repairing your vehicle||Suing for false arrest|
|A landlord who refuses to return your security deposit||Guardianship disputes|
|An employer who breached a contract that resulted in you suffering financial damages||Defamation (in some states)|
Tips to Ensure Success in Small Claims Court
Winning a case in small claims court will result in the judge issuing an order against the other party to reimburse you for damages which sometimes include court fees. Here are some pointers to help you win in small claims court:
- Study the appropriate process in your state – Although the process is usually the same in most states, there are differences in statutes of limitations and maximum amount for damages which you need to check first.
- Research about the defendant – Collect important information about the other party such as addresses, phone numbers, business names, and others. This is relevant in establishing jurisdiction and for the court agent to find the defendant and serve them the summons.
- Gather comprehensive documentation – Strong evidence as a result of diligent documentation is key to winning in small claims court. So take time to collect all the evidence that you believe can support your case such as paperwork, photos, audio recordings, etc.
- Anticipate counter-arguments – Expect that the opposing party will also do their research and defend themselves. Be prepared for those and gather extra documentation to support your case.
- Enlist the help of credible witnesses – Make sure their testimonies stay to the subject at hand. If a witness is hesitant to show up for the trial, you may ask the court to serve a subpoena.
- Follow up after the trial date – Winning the case doesn’t necessarily mean the money is deposited in your bank account. In some cases, you may have to request a lien on the defendant’s property or garnishment of wages.
Steps to Suing in Small Claims Court
Suing in small claims court can sometimes feel dreadful. Unlike regular court, it is more suitable as a venue for average citizens to represent themselves and resolve minor disputes. Here are the steps on how to sue in small claims court:
- Find the correct jurisdiction – The local superior court in your county is the best resource. In some cases, the jurisdiction will depend on where the defendant resides, where the contract was signed, where the event happened, and many other factors.
- Determine the correct legal name of the person or entity you are suing – Ask for the assistance of the county clerk’s office to find out legal names. If suing a business, visit the Secretary of State’s website. You can also look for Fictitious Business Names through your local County Clerk or Recorder’s office.
- Pay the court fees – The costs of filing varies by state and range from $15 to $200. Some courts accept cash only while others also accept credit cards.
- File the lawsuit – Fill out the Plaintiff’s Claim and Order to Go to Small Claims Court and Proof of Service (Small Claims) forms. Attach any supporting document if there are any. Wait for the county clerk to provide you with a court date. If you are filing in person, some states require that you present a valid ID.
- Serve the defendant – Make sure to take note of your state’s statutory deadlines. Serving the defendant can be done by a due process server, the county sheriff, or the court agent. If there is more than one defendant in your lawsuits, you need to prepare copies of the forms to serve them all.
- Show up for the trial – Ensure your success by making sure to attend the trial. In most cases, the defendants don’t show up for the trial which ends up in the judge awarding the plaintiff the damages. When you show up, dress professionally and act in a dignified manner during the trial.
How to Sue Anyone in Small Claims Court with DoNotPay?
In some cases, there are additional forms you need to fill up and lots of bureaucracies involved. Also, some small claims courts will recommend you to go through mediation or arbitration first which can sometimes feel discouraging. That is where DoNotPay can help! Our robot lawyer will help you file a lawsuit without having to go through so many red tapes. All you have to do is:
- Log in to DoNotPay and select the Sue Now Product
- Enter the dollar amount you are owed
- Select whether you want a demand letter or court filing forms
- Describe the reason for the lawsuit and submit any applicable details, including photo proof
That’s it! DoNotPay will then generate a demand letter or court filing forms for you. We’ll also mail a copy of your demand letter to the individual or business you are suing!
Who Else Has DoNotPay Helped Sue?
DoNotPay has a track record of helping people sue big corporations or their next-door neighbors. Our process is simple and easy which makes it suitable if you prefer hassle-free suing in small claims court. Some of the companies include: