Basics of Pursuing Your Lawsuit in Small Claims Court

The U.S. court system is divided into numerous districts on the federal and state levels. These courts have the authority to hear certain types of cases brought within specific jurisdictions. Many cases involve smaller amounts with simple fact patterns, and judicial systems have institutions to hear these types of cases. They are commonly and collectively referred to as small claims court.

In the space below, we\’ll describe how this institution works. You\’ll learn how to pursue a claim in small claims court along with a few tips to improve your odds of winning your case. We\’ll also provide a few suggestions for collecting a judgment in the event the presiding judge decides in your favor.

Small Claims Court 101

Small claims court is designed for plaintiffs seeking relief amounting to less than the statutory maximum. While a few states permit parties to litigate minor matters such as evictions, this type of institution is normally relegated to demands for damages. A plaintiff can bring an action for most tortious acts, although this system excludes certain types of cases. Complaints naming the federal government or any of its agents as parties must be filed in federal court.

Each state maintains its own set of rules regarding the types of cases that are permitted in small claims court. It\’s important to review the rules before moving forward with your case.

It\’s also worth noting that unlike conventional courts, participants are not allowed to retain attorneys. Plaintiffs and defendants must litigate their cases without formal legal representation. This permits plaintiffs to litigate smaller matters; a retainer for an attorney in a standard civil suit can cost as much as the damages being sought in a small claims case. This also facilitates judicial economy, as the facts in such cases are usually straightforward.

Pursuing A Claim

The first step in pursuing an action in small claims court is to file the claim in the jurisdiction in which the defendant lives. Again, plaintiffs are precluded from seeking outside representation in the case. Next the plaintiff must arrange for the defendant to be served. Service of process can be done directly or through substituted or constructive service. Plaintiffs may not serve defendants directly, but what constitutes adequate service varies between different locations and systems.

Tips For Litigating In Small Claims Court

When litigating, the parties involved in a case present their sides to the judge. Unlike a standard lawsuit, there are few or no rules of evidence and no lawyers to argue relevance.

A common belief is that in these types of situations, the party with the largest stack of paperwork wins. While this is not necessarily true, the parties with extensive documentation to support their version of the facts will be better situated to convince the judge to rule in their favor. Paperwork is greatly beneficial to a party\’s case, as judges will want to see evidence of any allegations.

Plaintiffs must prove their cases beyond a preponderance of the evidence. Unsubstantiated claims will fail to meet even that low standard. Witness statements, copies of communications, and evidence of financial transactions may be helpful. Both parties should make clear statements that can be supported by the evidence. They should refrain from embellishing events or trying to mislead the judge.

Parties must also remember to show respect to the presiding judge and the legal system. This includes dressing appropriately, addressing the judge with customary respect, and following the judge\’s orders.

Due to the fact that attorneys are not allowed, parties who would ordinarily be clients are now providing their own representation. Hence, individuals who handle criticism and judgments against them poorly should avoid small claims court.

To summarize, when pursuing a claim, remember to bring extensive documentation, dress presentably, and treat the judge with respect.

Collecting On A Judgment

Pursuing a legal action seeking damages is a futile effort if a plaintiff cannot collect on the judgment. Assuming the judgment was not vacated after the trial, the successful plaintiff may collect from the defendant. Uncooperative defendants may still refuse to pay even with a judgment against them. In this event, plaintiffs have several potential courses of action, including the following:

– garnish an uncooperative defendant\’s wages

– place a levy on the debtor\’s bank accounts

– place a lien on the debtor\’s property

– have the local sheriff forcibly collect the money if the defendant was a business

– force the defendant to appear in court

– suspend the defendant\’s driver\’s license.

The exact process involved with each option varies between judicial systems. They are usually simple to pursue, and therefore plaintiffs need not retain a lawyer or seek any type of legal representation to do so.

Small claims court is a valuable part of the U.S. legal system because it allows parties to litigate small concerns without congesting the court system. If you plan to pursue a legal action via this institution, learn the rules before presenting your case to the judge.

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Category: Legal
Keywords: law, legal, lawyer, court, attorney

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