Small claims court provides a simplified procedure to air your grievances against another party. A regular court case can take months or years to go to trial. Further, the amount of money that you may have to pay a lawyer to represent you during that time period could exceed the amount of damages at issue in the case. Small claims court is a streamlined litigation option for cases involving smaller amounts of money. It is common for one or both parties to a lawsuit to represent themselves in small claims court.
Small Claims Courts Are Limited
Small claims courts are authorized in local areas to help ease the burden on the regular court system and provide an easier option to pursue certain types of claims. Each locality sets its own rules for small claims court eligibility. Typically, the limits concern the amount of money that you can recover as damages and the types of claims it will hear.
Small Claims Courts Require Written Explanations of Claims
Small claims court is designed to make the trial process more accessible, but you still have to submit written documents to the court. The person bringing the lawsuit must file a complaint, and the accused party must file an answer. You can also submit motions in writing, just like in a regular court case. However, the clerk of the court usually provides fill-in-the-blank forms that you can use to complete these filings, making the process easier.
Decisions Are Final
Decisions made by the judge in small claims court are usually final. The court does not make a recording of the proceedings, so you can't appeal the case to a higher court. In exchange for expediency, you sacrifice a second review of the case if you don't like the decision. Also, a decision in a small claims case completely closes the matter. You can't bring the case to a different court to recover more money based on the same facts.
Judges Issue Judgments
Winning a court judgment in a small claims case does not mean that you will ever collect money that is owed to you. A judgment orders the other party to pay, but you are responsible for organizing the collection process. You must file the judgment with the sheriff's office to seize assets, but the judgment is only good if the other party, in fact, has assets that can be identified and seized.
A Business Lawyer Can Help
The law controlling cases in small claims court is complicated. Plus, the facts of each case are unique. This article provides a brief, general introduction to the topic. For more detailed, specific information, please contact a business lawyer.