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When to use the Small Claims Court

Introduction

You can sue people, businesses, or the government for $25,000 or less in Small Claims Court:

  • You do not need a lawyer to sue in Small Claims Court-many of the court's rules are relaxed.
  • You can sue even if you had only a verbal agreement with the other party, but it may be more difficult to prove your case.
  • Disputes take up to a year or longer to resolve in court. You can ask at the local court office when new cases are likely to go to trial.
  • If you win, the court may award up to $25,000 plus interest and costs. However, if you lose, you may have to pay the other side's costs.
  • If you can't afford the court filing fees, you can request a Fee Waiver to avoid paying most court fees.
  • You can only sue for money or the return of things valued at $25,000 or less, not including interest and costs.
  • There may be other ways to get what you want without going to court.

Before starting a suit in Small Claims Court:

  • Make sure you know the correct name and address of the person or business you are suing.
  • Find out if the party you want to sue has any money, income, or property that can be sold.
  • Figure out how much time has passed since the dispute took place. There are deadlines (called Limitation Periods) for when you can file a claim in court.
  • Limitation Periods are different for different disputes, but the time limit is two years for most complaints.

Learn more

  1. Decide if your legal problem relates to starting a claim at Small Claims Court.
  2. Read Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) to learn more about what Small Claims Court is and deciding to go to Small Claims Court.
  3. Follow the Steps for instructions on deciding to go to Small Claims Court.
  4. Review the Resources to find new and in-depth legal information about your problem.
  5. See the Links for news and other helpful websites.

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DisclaimerLast updated 07/30/2009