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How Can I Take Someone to Small Claims Court?

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  • Written By: Elizabeth Holli Wood
  • Edited By: Lucy Oppenheimer
  • Last Modified Date: 21 July 2014
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Small claims court is used to sue someone you feel owes you a small amount of money. They exist in many different countries including the Australia, Canada, Israel, and the United States. States imposed the maximum amount recoverable in these courts. This amount ranges from $1,500 US Dollars (USD) in Rhode Island to $15,000 USD in Delaware, for example. Typically, the maximum amount hovers around $5,000 USD.

Issues brought to small claims court can usually be settled without the use of an attorney from either side. Often, the accuser and the defendant represent themselves in court. Because the value of the claim is often minor, the process and applications necessary to try a case usually are somewhat inexpensive.

To take someone to small claims court, first you must visit your county courthouse and ask for the paperwork that litigants need to file. This paperwork will give you all of the information you need about how to fill out the paperwork and how to get your claim processed by the court system.

This paperwork will also give you insight on how to properly present your case in small claims court. Study this and follow it as noted so you can be sure to stand the best chance possible of winning your case and getting the money you feel you are owed.

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When you are preparing your evidence for your case, gather up any information related to your claim. This could include receipts, photographs, contracts, witness statements, or anything else that will prove that you should be compensated monetarily. Make three copies of all of this information; one for the court records, one for the person you are charging, and one for your own records.

Take one copy of your completed forms and a copy of your supporting materials to the courthouse so they can processing your claim. Then, mail a certified letter with the second set of information to the defendant. This will prove that he or she received notification of their need to be present in a small claims court hearing. Keep the third copy for your records and be sure to bring them with you to court.

The court will select a day for you and the defendant to appear in small claims court. On this day, dress professionally and respectfully at your court session. You need to present the best possible image and be as articulate as possible when presenting your evidence. Remember to bring all of your materials to this court session. This can include any witness who may give gravity to your claim.

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kentuckycat
Post 4

I really feel like area of law, which is small claims court, is something that is a bit of an enigma in the legal system as it is the only place in a court room where one will regularly see people defending themselves and arguing cases.

I know that anyone can argue their case without legal counsel, but it is highly discouraged and one can tell the difference sitting in a court room someone defending themself by the way they talk and argue a case, as they lack the legal experience and expertise.

I really feel like this are of law is something that may need a little bit of reform as it seems chaotic and a running joke is that there are virtually no consequences to not showing up to small claims court. I bet there are consequences, but it is not like they will be sent to prison.

Also, several times someone will get stiffed on the bill because it is so minor, despite winning their case, and the person owed will have to go through the same process all over again.

I am wondering if anyone has any experiences in small claims court that resulted in something like this or about how messy the process is?

Emilski
Post 3

@Izzy78 - I agree. The reason why someone can go to small claims court over such small claims is simply because it is their given right to sue if it is justified.

I once got ripped off by a computer company, that is notorious for bad customer service, due to something that they messed up when they sent me a replacement lap top.

When the replacement lap top went bad within a week, they told me my original warranty was voided, due to the fact I accepted a replacement computer, which is not anywhere in their policies.

I looked into taking them to small claims court because it was my right to do so, and also the fact that I was ripped off nearly eight hundred dollars.

As you said, say the government sets a minimum at say one thousand dollars, nothing could help me and I would have to live being out on that amount of money.

Because of this I encourage anyone that feels they have been ripped off a decent amount of money to look into taking whoever to small claims court as it is their right to do so.

Izzy78
Post 2

@jmc88 - I agree, but it is unfair to say that someone should not be able to sue somebody that ripped them off, no matter how small the amount of money is.

If they were to make a law that states no one can sue anyone for under five hundred dollars, rip offs would happen all over the place, as people would know they could not get sued as long it does not exceed five hundred dollars.

I know the Constitution states that anyone can be taken to court in a matter of money that exceeds twenty dollars and I really do not think that this has changed over the years, as I have seen people sue for as low as fifty dollars.

To be honest I feel that this is a double edged sword as it does clog the legal system, but it also is unfair to say that some people can sue and others cannot.

jmc88
Post 1

I have heard people going to small claims court for really minute amounts of money that can be as low as one hundred dollars.

I find it really strange that these types of cases are even heard as those minute amounts of money seem to create unnecessary trials that clog up the legal system which could be hearing more important cases.

I really never understood why someone would want to go to small claims court in the first place over such a small amount of money, because it may end up costing them more in legal fees, especially if they want to hire an attorney.

I know the article states that attorneys usually are not used in small claims court hearing, but I have known of instances where people did in fact hire an attorney and it ended up costing them more than the money they were trying to get in court.

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