Your First Trip to Small Claims Court – What to Do and What to Avoid

Small claims court is something that we tend not to think too much about — unless we’re sitting down on the couch to watch another episode of one of those daytime legal shows. However, if you find that you can’t get something worked out between you and an associate or even a business owner, small claims court might be just where you need to go.

In a perfect world, everyone would be able to afford a lawyer, but there are just some cases that are honestly too small for a lawyer to take on. If you want to make sure that they get taken care of still, small court is definitely your best answer. It’s perfect for when you have actual damages and fees that need to be corrected. If you can put a dollar sign on your problem and it’s under $3,000, small claims court is definitely where you need to go.

Keep in mind that it can take a while to make small claims court work for you. You will usually need to file a civil complaint, which will start the process. This is of course if you are actually suing someone. You need to make sure that you have a lot of evidence, such as receipts, statements, photos, witnesses…you get the idea. You don’t want to go into court trying to present “he said, she said” information. That’s called hearsay, and the judge will not give you what you want based on hearsay.

Whether you are doing the suing or being sued, it’s important to make sure that you make it to court on time. You don’t have to worry about someone not getting the message that they have to come to court. You can have the papers served to the other party by a process server or even a sheriff in some cases.

Being sued is not something pleasant, but that doesn’t mean that you have to just take a default judgment against you — which is what happens if you don’t show up! Small claims court is a chance for your side to be heard as well before the judge. If you have evidence to refute the claims brought up against you, you can win your case.

If you’ve always wanted to know what happens if you win your case and the other person doesn’t pay, this guide is for you. First, you have to understand that the defendant does get a chance to appeal the court’s decision. That can take a few months, depending on the state where the case has been filed and heard. After that point though, the plaintiff (you) gets all of the information that they need to collect on the judgment. There is a statue of limitations involved here, so make sure that you work within the time frame for your state or you lose all rights to collect the money involved.

Not every case is worthy of small claims court. If you don’t have evidence to back up what you’re saying, you might not want to waste your time — or your money. However, if you know that you have a solid case, small claims court is a great idea — check it out for yourself in your own state!