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How to Use Small Claims Court!
Author: StacyWilliams

I am going to try to give you some basic information on how to use "The People's Court" also known as "Small Claims Court". The reason it is called "The People's Court" is because it is a Court of Equity and generally Lawyers are not allowed in there to represent people. You tell your side of the Story to a Judge and the other side tells their side. Witnesses and Documents are submitted to help the Judge decide and the Judge renders and opinion for one side or the other.

The amount that you can sue for is $7,500.00 but if your case is for more than that but want a small claims court Judge to hear it as opposed to retaining a lawyer you just waive any amount over the $7,500.00 and if the Judge agrees that your case is worth at least the $7500.00 then you will get an award for that amount. This may make sense if you are looking at say a case worth say $9,000.00 and you have checked around and can not find a lawyer for no $1500.00 to take your case. If you are an individual you can file 2 cases a year for that amount and each additional case that you file after those 2 cases can not be over $2,500.00 and there are restrictions. If you are a business or a corporation and suing as such then the limit is $5,000.00 per case for a total of 2 a year and additional cases can not exceed $2,500.00 each.

As in any case there are statutes of limitations and I will set a few out for you here. A written contract you have 4 years from the date of breach of the contract to file your suit and if it is an oral contract then it is 2 years. If suing for Fraud then you have 3 years from the date of discovery of the Fraud and for personal injury you have 2 years from the date of the injury or the date you discovered that you were injured. There are other limitations and you should consult with a lawyer for other causes of actions. It would be to long to list them all here.

When you decide to file your suit you need to select the proper Venue and this is generally the court closest to either where the defendant resides or where the contract was signed or entered into or where the injury or damages occurred. This means not just the county but also you need to select the branch court within the county to file there. You can have a private process server serve the papers on the defendant or the sheriff or a friend. Obviously there is a charge if the sheriff serves the papers or if a licensed process server serves them. You can have a friend serve the papers as long as you know how to properly fill out and file the proof of service with the court. You will usually get a trial date within about 45 days but it all depends on how busy the courts are and so there may be less or more time involved.

If you are served with a suit and think that you have a suit against the other party then you can file what is called a cross-complaint as long as the amount does not exceed the $7500.00 limit the Small Claims Judge can hear the case. There are filing fees involved in each case and it will depend on the county that you are in and the amount that you are suing for. Now if you do not have the money to pay for the filing fees or to pay to have the sheriff serve the suit then you can file documents with the court that you are indigent and cannot afford these costs and if the clerk and court decide that you qualify (meaning you do not make much money etc) then those fees can be waived.

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