Small claims courts handle disputes involving small amounts of money, usually between individuals, or an individual against a business. The amount of money that can be sought in small claims courts depends on the jurisdiction, but the typical range is $1,000 to $5,000. Typical cases heard in small claims courts include tenant-landlord disputes (not including evictions), minor non-moving auto accidents, and merchandise refunds.
Deciding on when it makes sense to go to small claims court depends on a number of factors, which can include:
- How it will affect your relationship with this party in the future
- If the time and effort are worth the possible monetary reward
- If the disagreement between the two sides is minor or large
- Whether you have kept good records of all your transactions with the other party
- How likely is it that you can collect from the other party
- Whether other methods of settlement been tried or not
The process in small claims courts is typically very informal, and is characterized by the following:
- You are responsible for filing within the correct jurisdiction and paying the filing fee
- The trial is decided by a judge, not a jury
- You are responsible for bringing in your own evidence and witnesses
- You are also responsible for stating your case
- You or your opponent can appeal an adverse judgment
- You may need to take further action to collect your judgment
Even though lawyers are not typically sought out in small claims cases, you may still want a real estate lawyer to help you file suit small claims court. It may be helpful to consult an attorney to go over how you will present evidence and witnesses to win your case.