The Small Claims court is a very special court where you can not have a lawyer with you and disputes are resolved quickly. With a regular court action it would take you YEARS to get to court and the filing fee and service would be about $500. Small Claims will cost less than $100 and your case will come before a Judge or Judge Pro Tem within a month or so.

 

When I have sat as a Small Claims Court Judge Pro Tem, I advise the audience that the rules are simple and informal. Though you could ask a lawyer advice beforehand you can not bring a lawyer with you to court.

 

Claimants would be well advised to come to court organized because many small claims Judges will not allow you much time to present your case. I always tell my clients that before you file with small claims you should send an organized letter to the defendant which memorializes the facts. Present that letter to the court before you start talking by explaining you have summarized everything in the letter you want to hand to the bailiff. Explain that the letter was not answered by the defendant. The fact that the defendant does not respond to your demand letter is often considered by the bench officer hearing the case. Of course you should dress as professionally as possible and remember first impressions count with a court just as they do with a job interview or first date.

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Small Claims was recently increased from $7,500 to $10,000 for individuals with claims. Though you can file as many claims as you want if they are less than $2500, you can only file 2 claims a year for $2,500 or more.

 

As with everything in law there are exceptions. If the claim is the result of an auto accident then the $7,500 limit still applies. The legal community has been trying to get the threshold amounts increased for a dozen years or more. It would be nice to see all cases worth less than $15,000 heard in small claims. That way the average Joe could have his day in court. It is often too expensive to hire a lawyer that would handle most matters only on an hourly basis. When that occurs a claimant can not afford to be represented by counsel to get the moneys owed him/her resolved. Lawyer’s with a heart (both of them), hate to see claimants with rights that they can not afford to exercise because of the legal costs. I often go home sad because there are so many people I can NOT help.

 

A small claims advisor is at the courthouse to give you some info on what you can and can not do in small claims.

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