Whether you loaned a family or friend money, paid for unsatisfactory service, or had another party violate a written contract, you may feel the need to seek reparations by suing. But concerns over the cost of retaining a lawyer and the time you will need to dedicate to the matter cause many people to let the other party off the hook.
Taking your issue to small claims court is a quick and inexpensive alternative to filing a lawsuit. Small claims courts settle minor financial disputes without an attorney present. The limitations on what the court can do vary by state. And a few factors determine whether your case is eligible for resolution in this forum. This includes the dollar amount of damages you seek and where each party resides.
Here are a few misconceptions about small claims court, and the actual rules.
I need a lawyer to go to small claims court.
Nope. Sometimes, lawyers aren't even allowed in court.
In small claims court, the plaintiff (the person filing the complaint) lays out the facts of their case. The defendant gets an opportunity to respond to the allegations. Both parties can present evidence related to the case and call witnesses.
Once all testimony is heard and documentation reviewed, the judge will decide on the topic and award appropriate damages when applicable. No attorney is allowed to represent either party in small claims court.
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Small claims court is really expensive.
Actually, suing in small claims court avoids the high cost of legal representation while giving you an avenue to get paid what you are owed. Typically, you'll need to pay a filing fee and purchase defendant service. But beyond those expenses, there isn't much you'll need to spend.
Small claims court takes too long
In comparison to other courts, small claims court is much faster. Litigation in small claims court takes an average of 2-3 months. This includes filing the suit, serving the appellant, and attending the hearing.
There is no precise turnaround time for other types of lawsuits. Depending on the cause and the complexity of the matter, it can take several months or years to settle a legal matter. Steps like investigations, discovery, and negotiations can be long and drawn out, leaving you exhausted and ready to give up.
So small claims court is much faster. But it does have a few tedious steps. And it may take a while to find all necessary documents and updated court procedures. So you may want to hire an online service like Dispute that will streamline these steps for you.
Small claims are highly complicated
As discussed in the time-saving section, filing a small claims case is simple. You submit your case to court, have the defendant served, and show up to your hearing. Should you choose to file a lawsuit in another court instead, you can expect the process to be more complex.
In other courts, you'll need to:
- Locate an attorney willing to work your case.
- Have a consultation. And the lawyer will let you know if they believe your case has value. If they decide to take your case, they will file on your behalf and have the other party served. The defendant either answers the complaint or files a counterclaim against you.
- Both parties will gather as much information as possible to support their cases. During this time, mediation or arbitration can be used to come to a mutual agreement.
- If the issue is not resolved, the trial begins, followed by a verdict. Even after the case is over, the losing party has a right to appeal.
Small claims court is as emotionally exhausting as other courts
Being a Plaintiff in a lawsuit can be stressful. Repeatedly reliving the event or feeling like your privacy is violated when people question your credibility can be exhausting. And the uncertainty associated with a lengthy trial can leave you feeling stressed, anxious and depressed. Depending on the trial's length, this can go on for months.
Though these feelings can be experienced during a small claims case, they will subside more quickly due to the shortened turnaround time. Once litigation is complete, you can move on and begin the healing process.
With Dispute, you can handle all of your case details from your phone. Your user dashboard gives you full access to case information and the ability to submit documentation easily. Automated creation of docket entries, notifications of filing, and improved response times are just a few of the benefits of filing with Dispute.
With a simplified, speedy process, you don’t have to let anyone get away with reneging on agreements you have entered into. Taking them to small claims court will show them that you're serious, hold them accountable, and hopefully deter them from violating anyone else in the future.