A small claims case is the process of going to court to settle a dispute without the need for lawyers. When a case is heard in a small claims court, the dispute is usually resolved by a judge immediately. The disputes involved are most likely to be monetary, and the amount is usually below 5,000 US dollars (USD). As in most legal cases, there are many rules and regulations regarding a small claims action.
The small claims court usually hears cases involving money that is owed, car accidents, and property damage. If you have seen television shows such as Judge Judy, then you should have a good idea of a small claims court. Once the judge has heard all the evidence, he or she decides the verdict.
The person who brings a case to the small claims court must represent himself. No lawyers are allowed to talk for the plaintiff, the person who is bringing the case to court. There are no rules about receiving advice from a lawyer before bringing the case to small claims court, however.
Disputes heard in small claims court are usually dealt with very quickly. Once a claim has been filed, the case is usually heard within two months. The court hearing itself may only last for around 15 minutes. The judge delivers a verdict at the end of the hearing, or the verdict may be sent by post.
The first step in bringing a small claims action is to write to the defendant asking for an agreement or settlement of the money owed. If no agreement can be reached, then the next step is to file a complaint with the small claims court. There will be a small filing fee, as well as a cost to notify the defendant of the intended action.
When the case comes to court, the plaintiff should have all necessary evidence pertaining to the case. Letters to the defendant, including the original letters sent asking for a settlement, must be presented to the judge. Witnesses are also allowed to appear in the small claim court. If a witness fails to appear, then she can be made to appear by issuing a subpoena.
The plaintiff will also have the chance to make a brief statement to the judge. This can either be verbally or through a written document. The statement should only deal with the relevant case. The judge will ask many questions throughout the hearing, and it is important to answer them fully.
Once the case has been heard and the judgment made, the case is over. If the judge has issued a verdict in favor of the defendant, then no appeal can be made by the plaintiff. The plaintiff may file for a motion to reconsider the verdict, but only the defendant is allowed to appeal against the ultimate verdict.