If at all possible, it is best to avoid going to court. Between the financial costs and the time it will take out of your schedule, taking someone to court is not an attractive option.
However, in some cases, it may be your only viable path forward.
When you feel you are owed compensation of some kind and the other party does not agree, it may be that you need to use small claims court to have the matter settled.
But how do you go about filing a suit? While the exact rules and regulations will vary based on your local jurisdiction, we have provided some basic, general information below.
Before taking any actual steps, the first thing you should do is take a long hard look at the facts of your case.
Do you think you are likely to win? If you do win, will what you receive be worth what you had to put into the case?
This isn’t to say that you should decide not to file a suit, it is just to say that you need to think it over carefully. Don’t hurry and file just because you are upset and annoyed in the moment. Give yourself enough time to think it through before you take any action.
Will You Need Representation?
It is not necessarily required to have a lawyer in order to file a small claims court suit.
However, you may want to consider retaining representation depending on the complexity of your case. A complex case, or one which involves dollar amounts near the top of the small claims scale, may be best handled by a lawyer with experience in this kind of situation.
Learn the Rules
If you decide to work with a lawyer, he or she will be able to help you get up to speed on the relevant rules regarding small claims court in your area.
How much money can you request in small claims court? If the amount to which you believe you are entitled rises beyond the small claims threshold, you’ll need to opt for a higher court.
File Your Claim
To reach this point, you will need to have done plenty of legwork. This includes deciding exactly who you are going to sue, and on what grounds.
You should be able to find the right paperwork for your area online. Be sure to fill everything out as thoroughly as possible before submitting it.
In order to make the defendant aware of the suit, you will have to have the papers ‘served’. The rules for proper service are going to depend on where you live. So, this is another bit of research you will need to do.
Go to Court
Finally, your case will end up in court where it will be decided. That is, unless the defendant agrees to negotiate a settlement in order to avoid a court date.
One of the best things you can do to improve your chances of a successful outcome is simply to be prepared for the day. Have all of your information straight, be truthful, and have evidence to support your side.
Have you ever had to go to small claims court? How did it turn out?
Photo courtesy of: qimono
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