Small Claims

Small Claims contains: 13 Articles, 16 FAQs

FreeAdvice is the best place to find the information you are looking for about Small Claims. Here, you will find useful information and advice regarding when cases are appropriate for small claims court, what the filing procedure entails, what judgments may be awarded in a small claims case, and what the small claims court requires in your state.

The primary use of the small claims court is in resolving disputes that involve limited amounts of money. Small claims courts typically impose a small and specific cap on the amount of compensation one party may seek from another. In California, for example, a person may not seek more than $7,500 in a given claim, while corporations or government entities may seek even less – no more than $5,000 per claim. The disputes brought before a small claims court tend to be fairly straightforward cases, mainly revolving around property damage, automobile accidents, collection of money owed, and landlord/tenant disputes.

One benefit of small claims court is that it allows the parties to receive quick rulings in their cases. In some small claims courts, a case may be heard within 20 to 70 days from the time the claim is filed, whereas in a regular court cases may take years before they go to trial.

Another benefit of having a case heard in small claims court is that small claims courts use simplified procedures to make it easier for parties to represent themselves. Small claims courts generally require that a party represent himself rather than being represented by an attorney, although some small claims courts do allow a lawyer to represent a party in court. Every state allows the parties to meet with an attorney prior to the court date for advice.

Some small claims courts require that the party making the complaint first ask the other party to pay before filing the case. Other courts require that the parties meet to discuss the dispute and try to come to an agreement on their own before a judge hears the case.

When the day of the small claims hearing arrives, parties are required to be in attendance. A party’s failure to appear results in a default judgment against him, which means the other party wins the case automatically.

A small claims judge gives both parties an opportunity to tell their story, and it is advisable for each party to bring evidence if it exists. Evidence might consist of anything from receipts, a contract or other paper documents, to photos, and even witnesses. A small claims judge is usually willing to examine evidence and will take the evidence into consideration when deciding who wins the case.

Small claims judgments can be appealed in some courts under certain circumstances. However, where appeals are allowed there is generally a limited amount of time in which to file the appeal.

For more information on Small Claims, including information on how to file a small claim and other small claims court rules, refer to the links to particular small claims topics on this page.