Small Claims Court

Small Claims Court

Small claims courts, with relatively simple and informal rules, are used to settle small monetary disputes quickly and inexpensively. Each state determines the maximum amount for which a person can sue in small claims court.

Typically, this amount falls between $2,500 and $7,500. However, there are a number of states that fall outside of this range. For instance, the maximum amount a person can sue for in a Kentucky small claims court is $1,500 compared with a maximum of $15,000 in Delaware.

Types of Cases Resolved in Small Claims Court

Small claims court generally will hear a variety of disputes. Some of the most common disputes brought before small claims court include:

•  Property damage caused by a motor vehicle accident

•  Evictions and various other landlord/tenant disputes

•  Damage to or loss of property

•  Breach of contract or warranty

•  Collection of money owed

Claims that Cannot Be Settled in Small Claims Court

Not all cases involving minor disputes can be resolved in small claims court. Some of the more complex cases that small claims court will not hear include:

•  Divorce

•  Bankruptcy

•  Guardianship

•  Libel or slander

•  False arrest

•  Suits against the federal government

Note: A person can file suit in small claims court based on any of the legal premises allowed in other courts, including personal injury, as long as the amount being sought does not exceed the state maximum for small claims.

If you are considering filing a claim in small claims court, you should keep this limit in mind, especially if you think you are entitled to more than the maximum amount. In most cases, when you file a claim in small claims court, you are forfeiting your right to pursue additional money in a separate lawsuit.

Filing a Claim in Small Claims Court

Before filing a claim in small claims court, it is important to consider both your chances of winning and your ability to collect if you do. Your chances of winning will ultimately depend on the nature of the evidence that you present to the court. Evidence may include documents such as letters from experts, photos, bills, contracts, or warranties as well as any eyewitnesses. Your ability to collect will depend on the financial circumstances of the other party.

Since small claims court is relatively informal, you will not need an attorney to present your case for you. The judge will listen to both the plaintiff's (the person suing) and the defendant's (the person being sued) side of the story, and then make a ruling based on the evidence each party presents.

Typically, a plaintiff cannot appeal an unfavorable verdict. The defendant, however, usually can do so by following the appropriate appeal procedures.

It is very important if you have been injured to contact a qualified attorney before determining your best course of legal action.

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