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What You Need to Know About Small Claims Courts 
 
by Robbi Erickson September 23, 2005

This articles goes over the basics of small claims court procedures. It provides the procedures that the plaintiff should follow, and it also provides the procedures that the defendant should follow. Other pieces of information that are included are: what cases qualify for small claims court, what costs are associated with small claims courts, what happens after a claim is filed, and how to enforce a judgement made in a small claims court.

Introduction

The proposition of going to court to recover money lost due to a default on a loan or to recover money lost due to damage caused by a negligent party may seem intimidating. However, if all other avenues of resolving the issue have failed it may be necessary to bring your case to a small claims court to get an immediate judgement in order to resolve the issue at hand. This article will go over the basics steps that are involved in a small claims court case including: how much it costs, what cases are appropriate for a small claims court, what procedures the plaintiff has to follow, what procedures the defendant has to follow, and what will happen once the case is filed.

What Cases Qualify for Small Claims Court Litigation?

Small claims court, as their name suggests, is intended to hear cases that involve small claims usually that involve less than $5,000 - $7,000 (depending on the state). These cases can be related to a failure to pay on a loan, damage caused by inadequate repairs by a professional, a tenant trying to get back their security deposit, etc. As long as the total value being recovered is less than the limits set by the state’s small claims court, the case can be tried in a small claims court.

What Does it Cost to Have a Case Heard Before a Small Claims Court?

The fees charged will vary from state to state. The plaintiff will be responsible for the bulk of the fees charged including: a filing fee (usually based on the amount of restitution being sought), a fee for serving papers to the defendant, a fee for the Small Claims Court Form, and possibly other court fees. When deciding if you want to bring your case to court or not you should weigh the amount of money you will spend on court fees and missing work against the possible amount of money that you will be able to recover. In general the maximum fees charged for a small claims court case will be about $150.

A benefit to the small claims court process is that it has been simplified so that people won’t have to involve an attorney in the case. This will save you hundreds of dollars in legal fees, and it will allow you to keep all of the money that you are able to recover.

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