A small claims case is a civil case in which the monetary amount is less than $5000, but this does not include any fees, court costs, or interest. Since it is a civil case, it is heard only by the county, which holds jurisdiction. Any person who is over the age of majority, which is 18, can file a small claims case as can a business. Before filing a small claims case, make sure that you have the legal right to file and that you have made every attempt to either collect the debt or have the property returned to you.
When you realize that you have to file, it is important that you know exactly how to file a small claims case. If you do it improperly, the case can be thrown out of the court and you will have to start over from the beginning.
Deciding where to file a small claims case is not as difficult as it sounds. You must determine which county has jurisdiction over the case. This could be where the defendant lives, where the event happened, where payment on a note is received or where any property involved is located.
To begin, you have to fill out what is known as a complaint form with the Clerk of Courts in the correct county. If you have any questions or need any assistance, the Clerk of Courts can help you. This form will have all the information in it including exactly what happened and how much you are suing for in your small claims case. Do not over-simplify nor exaggerate. Just the bare facts go into the complaint form.
The complaint form will also include all pertinent information concerning the Defendant, also, such as full name and address. You will have to have all your paperwork in order and present at that time. These could be lease agreements, sales receipts, or bills. Attach all such documents to the complaint form for filing.
After you have filled out everything, and attached all copies pertaining to filing the small claims case, you must pay to have the small claims case filed. This is generally a small amount, often as low as $25. This fee can also be based on the amount that you are suing for.
As soon as you have filed a small claims case, you will need to arrange to have the defendant notified of the impending lawsuit. This is often done by mail but can also be accomplished by personal server. Either one is going to come with a small fee attached payable to the Clerk of Courts. Remember to keep receipts of all the fees to take with you into court. Should you win the case you will be able to collect on all of them.
At the time you file, you will receive a date and time of a pretrial hearing. Make sure you are there. If the defendant fails to show, he will have defaulted and you have won your small claims case against him.