When should you bring a claim to small claims court?
If you are an individual and have a claim that is $10,000 or less (or a business and have a claim that is $5,000 or less), you may want to consider bringing your claim in small claims court. There are several reasons you may want to bring your claim in small claims rather than initiating a full-blown lawsuit.
The filing fee for a small claims case is much more affordable compared to a regular lawsuit. Rather than paying $370 to $435 to file your claim, you only need to pay $30 to $75 depend on the value of your claim.
The time between filing your claim to your small claims hearing (i.e. trial) is much shorter compared to a regular lawsuit. Rather than waiting at least one year from the filing of your claim to the trial date, a small claims trial date can be scheduled for as soon as twenty to seventy days after filing your claim.
Small claims court has a much less formal procedure to seek redress against the party who you feel has wronged you. Unlike a regular lawsuit that has many rules of civil procedure you need to know and follow, small claims court has much fewer rules to follow.
While there are certainly benefits to bringing a claim in small claims, there are also a few things you should keep in mind.
You are not allowed to have an attorney or anyone else represent you in small claims court. Therefore, you are responsible for arguing your own case, submitting your own evidence, and questioning your own witnesses at the small claims hearing.
A judge may not be the person who hears your claim. Instead, a commissioner or temporary judge may hear your claim. A commissioner is someone the court hires to sit as a judge. A temporary judge (i.e. “judge pro tem” or “judge pro tempore”) is someone who has been a lawyer for at least ten years and trained to hear small claims cases.
There are generally many small claims hearings scheduled each day; therefore, the judge or commissioner has a limited amount of time to spend on any one case.
Lastly, while an attorney cannot represent you in the small claims hearing, an attorney can help you prepare you for the hearing. Therefore, to ensure you bring the best case forward, you can seek an attorney’s assistance to help you prepare your exhibits, legal arguments, and questions for your witness(es) if any.