In California, Small Claims Court is a special court that makes resolving disputes fast and inexpensive. Although there are many things to consider with small claims court, there are a few important considerations with small claims that you should know before you get started.
To sue another person or a company in Small Claims Court, you must be at least 18 years old.
A lawyer cannot represent you in Small Claims Court. However, you can have a lawyer coach you for small claims court. Here, a lawyer can help you get prepared, explain what the procedure is, help you organize your evidence, and provide great advice on what to do and what not to do.
Generally, in Small Claims Court you cannot ask for an award of more than $10,000. If your case involves damages that exceed $10,000 you should consider suing the other person or company in regular civil action. Businesses using Small Claims Court cannot ask for an award of more than $5,000. This limit does not apply to “sole proprietors,” who are treated as “natural persons.” Otherwise, there are additional limitations that you should either research or talk to a lawyer about.
There are many different types of cases that you can file in Small Claims Court. Some examples include, if your property has been damaged by another person, if you have been injured in a car accident, if you have a dispute regarding a security deposit with a landlord or a tenant, if you have a dispute with a contractor, if you are trying to collect money that is owed to you, HOA disputes, and many other types of disputes.
There are deadlines to file your case in Small Claims Court depending on the type of case you have. This is referred to as the Statute of Limitation. If you are unsure about the deadline in your case, you should talk to a lawyer and do your own research. The key here is to file your case as quickly as possible after the events related to the case happen. If you wait too long, you may not be able to file your case at all.
There are fees you will have to pay to file a case in Small Claims Court. The amount of the filing fee depends on the amount you are seeking to gain in the case. Depending on the circumstances, these fees can range from $30 to $100.
Generally, if you are suing someone in Small Claims Court, you have to go to court. Though there are exceptions, generally, you cannot send someone else to Small Claims Court to appear for you. If the person you are suing does not show up to court, you still have to explain your side of the case. If you are being sued, you must go to court if you would like your side of the case to be considered by the court. Typically, there is only one hearing to attend.
Some Small Claims Court cases are appealed. Generally, you can only appeal a Small Claims Court case if you were the person being sued. You cannot appeal if you were the person who filed the Small Claims Court case.
There are many more details to consider with Small Claims Court. If you are unsure about your case, consider hiring a lawyer to coach you.
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Last update: June 2018.