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LEGAL DICTIONARY

Small Claims Court

What Is Small Claims Court?

A small claims court is a court of law designed to hear civil cases that can be handled quickly and inexpensively. The hearings are informal, and attorneys usually are not present.

Depending on the jurisdiction, small claims courts may be called a county court or a magistrate's court. The individual or party filing the claim is called the plaintiff. The person or party the claim is filed against is called the defendant.

In most small claims court cases, disputes are limited to up to $5,000. However, some individuals can claim up to $10,000. The filing fee depends on the amount of the claim. Most cases are heard on weekdays within 30 to 40 days after the plaintiff files a claim. Some courts also hear claims on weekends.

What Types of Cases Are Resolved in a Small Claims Court?

Examples of typical disputes filed in small claims court are:

  • A former landlord refuses to return your security deposit even though you met all the lease requirements.
  • Another driver damages your care and refuses to pay for the repairs.
  • You lent money to someone, and they refuse to pay you back.
  • A tenant damaged an apartment in excess of what is covered by the security deposit and refuses to pay for the damage.
  • The computer you purchased does not work, and the seller refuses to replace or repair it.
  • You need to resolve a dispute over a quitclaim deed.

It is important to first consider all your other options before filing a case in small claims court. It may not be the best path for resolving your dispute.

First, it's essential to know if the law is on your side before filing a claim in small claims court. Then, to prove your case, you'll need to gather evidence, meet with witnesses, and attend the hearing in person.

In some situations, it is favorable to both parties to try resolving disputes through mediation. You also might be able to solve the problem through your local consumer affairs offices or local dispute resolution programs.

A mediator serves as a guide to help the parties find their own resolution to the problem. This individual holds joint and separate meetings with both parties, enabling them to clearly define their side of the issue, understand each other's position, and move toward a fair resolution.

However, the mediator has no authority to decide the settlement or try to force the parties to settle.

How To File A Claim In Small Claims Court

In many states, when you file your claim, you must sign an affidavit stating that you have made a good-faith effort to resolve the dispute. Next, you will make a sworn statement that offers a detailed, non-emotional accounting of the dispute.

As the plaintiff, you have the burden of proof. In other words, you will need appropriate documentation that shows what you claim is true. All supporting documents and other evidence must be ready to show to the court when asked.

You should notify any witnesses you want to testify before the court well in advance of the court date.

You will also need to provide the following:

  • Your complete name and address.
  • The full name and address of the defendant(s)
  • The amount you seek in damages.
  • A concise statement of the basis for your claim, including any relevant dates.

When you file your small claims documents and pay the filing fee, you will be asked to pledge under oath that your small claims statement is true.

In the case of an accident, you may file an accident claim in the county where the accident happened or in the county where the defendant resides. If the case involves a service or purchase, you will file in the county where the service or purchase took place or in the county where the defendant's business is physically located.

Get Your Quitclaim Deed

Helpful Resources:

Cornell Law - Small Claims Court

California Department of Consumer Affairs - The Small Claims Court

FINRA - Mediation Process

Oregon State Bar - Small Claims Court

What Is Small Claims Court?

A small claims court is a court of law designed to hear civil cases that can be handled quickly and inexpensively. The hearings are informal, and attorneys usually are not present.

Depending on the jurisdiction, small claims courts may be called a county court or a magistrate's court. The individual or party filing the claim is called the plaintiff. The person or party the claim is filed against is called the defendant.

In most small claims court cases, disputes are limited to up to $5,000. However, some individuals can claim up to $10,000. The filing fee depends on the amount of the claim. Most cases are heard on weekdays within 30 to 40 days after the plaintiff files a claim. Some courts also hear claims on weekends.

What Types of Cases Are Resolved in a Small Claims Court?

Examples of typical disputes filed in small claims court are:

  • A former landlord refuses to return your security deposit even though you met all the lease requirements.
  • Another driver damages your care and refuses to pay for the repairs.
  • You lent money to someone, and they refuse to pay you back.
  • A tenant damaged an apartment in excess of what is covered by the security deposit and refuses to pay for the damage.
  • The computer you purchased does not work, and the seller refuses to replace or repair it.
  • You need to resolve a dispute over a quitclaim deed.

It is important to first consider all your other options before filing a case in small claims court. It may not be the best path for resolving your dispute.

First, it's essential to know if the law is on your side before filing a claim in small claims court. Then, to prove your case, you'll need to gather evidence, meet with witnesses, and attend the hearing in person.

In some situations, it is favorable to both parties to try resolving disputes through mediation. You also might be able to solve the problem through your local consumer affairs offices or local dispute resolution programs.

A mediator serves as a guide to help the parties find their own resolution to the problem. This individual holds joint and separate meetings with both parties, enabling them to clearly define their side of the issue, understand each other's position, and move toward a fair resolution.

However, the mediator has no authority to decide the settlement or try to force the parties to settle.

How To File A Claim In Small Claims Court

In many states, when you file your claim, you must sign an affidavit stating that you have made a good-faith effort to resolve the dispute. Next, you will make a sworn statement that offers a detailed, non-emotional accounting of the dispute.

As the plaintiff, you have the burden of proof. In other words, you will need appropriate documentation that shows what you claim is true. All supporting documents and other evidence must be ready to show to the court when asked.

You should notify any witnesses you want to testify before the court well in advance of the court date.

You will also need to provide the following:

  • Your complete name and address.
  • The full name and address of the defendant(s)
  • The amount you seek in damages.
  • A concise statement of the basis for your claim, including any relevant dates.

When you file your small claims documents and pay the filing fee, you will be asked to pledge under oath that your small claims statement is true.

In the case of an accident, you may file an accident claim in the county where the accident happened or in the county where the defendant resides. If the case involves a service or purchase, you will file in the county where the service or purchase took place or in the county where the defendant's business is physically located.

Get Your Quitclaim Deed

Helpful Resources:

Cornell Law - Small Claims Court

California Department of Consumer Affairs - The Small Claims Court

FINRA - Mediation Process

Oregon State Bar - Small Claims Court