Small claims courts deal with many cases, and lawsuits can be filed against people, corporations, partnerships, or other entities. Each state also sets the maximum amount that individuals can sue in a small claims court. So if you’re planning to attend small claims court and need some more information, we’re going to discuss some tips for how to take someone to small claims court and preparing for your day at trial.
What is Small Claims Court?
Small claims courts are small court cases that deal with civil matters; these cases are usually done much quicker and are less expensive than other court cases. For example, individuals can have a small claims case about any such disputes like security deposits, property damages, and so on. These court cases are also less formal, and lawyers are not allowed to represent a person in a small claims court, so the parties in the case are to speak directly to the judge. Each party ought to explain their case and bring their proof and maybe witnesses for support.
How do I file a claim in small claims court?
There are a few steps for you to file a claim in a small claims court, and not forgetting that each state may differ based on the maximum amount of money individuals can sue for in these cases. First, you need to:
File a complaint form
Persons can begin a small court claim by filling out a complaint form available online or by collecting copies at court locations statewide.
Pay the filing fee
File your complaint with the district court and pay the filing fee. If you have any questions about the cost, persons can check online or at their district’s clerk’s office. If someone can’t afford the fee, there is also an option where the price can be waived. Most courts provide a form to request a fee waiver.
The court will hand you the writ of summons, which outlines the date, location of the trial, and time.
This step involves the plaintiff serving the defendant with the lawsuit. The service of process involves informing the defendant that you, the plaintiff, have filed a lawsuit against them.
Hand court papers to the defendant
After the plaintiff hands out the court papers, the defendant will have a certain number of days to respond to your complaint based on the sates requirements. However, if the defendant wants to challenge your claim, they must file a notice of intention to defend. If the defendant files a notice of intention to defend, the defendant plans to argue the claim in court.
Provide proof to the court that the defendant was served
Go to court on trial day and prepare to prove your case. You can also bring along your evidence and witnesses.
What are the benefits of filing a claim in small claims court?
There are various reasons why people go to small claims courts. Some of those reasons include:
- There is no need for a lawyer
- It’s inexpensive
- The process is much quicker
- Once a decision is made in small claims court, you can’t go back to sue the individual or try to get the excess.
When should I consider taking someone to small claims court?
You can consider taking someone to small claims court if mediation doesn’t work, lending someone money, and they refuse to pay back or any other damages to physical property that you think the other party needs to pay for and the claim is for less than $10,000.
Why you should always have evidence when going to trial
Evidence is significant when going to trial; lack of proof can terminate an individual’s legal case. When giving evidence, the judge will be observing you, so be yourself and act naturally. By having your evidence, you’re trying to prove your innocence, so leave your emotions at home, be neutral and never personally attack your adversary.
Tips for preparing for your day at a trial
Some people haven’t been in a courtroom setting, and some may even think that a courtroom is a dramatic place. Some may even feel nervous or unsure about the case. Hence, we will look at a few tips on preparing for your trial day.
- Timing is everything – Be on time, make sure you have enough time to go through security, find your courtroom and go through your notes. If you are late for trial, you must call the clerk’s office to inform the judge because if you don’t do so, the judge will call the case and go on without you.
- Dress professionally – Present yourself in a way that looks professional and not distracting because you want the judge to focus on your case and not your hairdo or any other eye-catching accessory.
- Speak clearly – Write down notes in advance and practice what you’re going to tell the judge, always speak facts and keep it short. Although you may be angry at the other person, try your best to remain calm and suggest solutions to the judge; even if the judge may disagree but at least the judge will know what you’re asking for.
- Show respect in the courtroom – When speaking to court staff, try your best to be patient and polite. Do not use obscenity and be courteous towards the other party. Say Mr and Ms., instead of first names, call the judge “Your Honor,” stand up when speaking to the judge, and don’t speak over anyone.
- Always speak the truth – Lying is a crime, so be honest and if you say something that the judge doesn’t understand, correct any misinterpretation.