How do I file my claim?
A lawsuit on a small claim is begun by filing a formal statement of claim with the small claims court. A statement of claim must contain a description of the nature and amount of your claim, plus certain other information. In most courts, you make this formal statement by completing and filing a form called a “small claims complaint”. Some court use a statement form called a “small claims information sheet”. Before you file the formal claim, it is a good idea (but not required) to make a last effort to settle the dispute. You can do this by sending the potential defendant(s) a letter by certified mail, return receipt requested. Your letter can be elaborate or simple. At a minimum, your letter should summarize the basic facts of your claim and state the amount of money you want. After reading your letter, the defendant might pay the claim or offer a sensible compromise.

If the defendant does not settle the claim, call or go to the clerk of the court which appears to have jurisdiction. That is, the court in whose geographical territory the transaction or incident took place, or the court in whose territory the defendant (or any one defendant, if there is more than one) lives, or has his, her, or its principal place of business. Explain the basic facts of your claim, for example, who, what, where, when and how much money you want. Then ask the clerk if the claim can be properly filed in his or her court. If the clerk says the claim can be filed in his or her court, ask about the details of filing a claim. Be sure to ask about: the court’s business hours; the cost of filing a small claims case; and the name and complete mailing address of the clerk’s office for the small claims division of the court. Finally, ask for directions on how to get to the court. If the clerk says your claim cannot be filed in his or her court, ask for the name, address, and telephone number of the proper court, and contact the clerk of that court.

When you go to the clerk’s office, take the following with you: 1) the full name (and business name if applicable), address, and telephone number of the defendant; 2) whatever evidence you have which supports your claim; 3) the names and addresses of all your witnesses; and 4) enough cash to pay the filing fee. Also, you should find out whether the defendant is on active military service. (Federal law provides some protection for those who are on active duty, and the court will ask about defendant’s military status.) some example of evidence are: sales receipts, contracts, leases, warranties, promissory notes, IOU’s, diagrams, photos, memos, notes, letters, postal return receipts, and unclaimed letter notices. Be sure to fill in the small claims form completely. Use clear language. Write or print legibly. On the complaint, state the nature, circumstances, and amount of your claim as briefly as possible. If you want interest on any judgment and reimbursement for all court costs, be sure to ask for your damages, interest on your damages, and reimbursement of all court costs, including those incurred in enforcing a judgment. If you win, you may be able to recover damages, interest, and all court costs.

Show All Answers

1. What is small claims court?
2. What cases can the court handle?
3. Who can sue or be sued?
4. Where do I file my claim?
5. How do I file my claim?
6. What does it cost?
7. I’ve been sued! What do I do now?
8. What if the claim is settled before hearing?
9. How do I prepare my case?
10. What is mediation?
11. How does mediation work?
12. Why mediate?
13. What if I do not appear at the hearing / trial?
14. What if I win or lose?
15. How do I get my money?