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How to Sue a Bar for Negligence in Small Claims Court

Updated December 5th 2022

7 min read

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How to Sue a Bar for Negligence in Small Claims Court

How to Sue a Bar for Negligence in Small Claims Court


Trey Salm


Did you have a night out on the town, visit a local bar or nightclub and stumble into an accident? While this can happen at any business, the mixture of people and alcohol increases the likelihood of someone getting injured. Sometimes when this happens it is the negligence of the bar and its employees that are to blame. Negligence means.) a "failure to behave with the level of care that someone of ordinary prudence would have exercised under the same circumstances."

If injured or traumatized while on the property, you can sue the bar or nightclub in small claims court. Suing a bar for negligence or other damages in small claims court is very winnable if you understand the basics of filing a lawsuit.

In this article, we take a closer look at bar negligence and the steps to sue a bar for negligence in small claims court. Remember, you can always generate your claim and file in a few quick minutes using Dispute.

Reasons to File a Negligence Lawsuit Against a Bar

Similar to most businesses, the bar owner's legal responsibility is to ensure their customers are safe. Nightclub and bar owners are required to carry what's called "liability insurance" because of this. So, when a bar does not provide a safe environment or ignores observable problems, you may have the right to file a negligence lawsuit if issues arise.

Common reasons to sue a bar for negligence in small claims court include:

  • Suing for Personal Injury Due to Fight - If you face personal injury because a person in the bar hurt you on purpose or you were accidentally hurt during a bar fight, you can sue the bar.
  • Unrelated to Fight Injury - If you were injured due to poor lighting, slippery floors, broken or damaged furniture, overcrowding, damaged stairs or handrails in disrepair.
  • Food Poisoning - Any business that serves food, you are at risk of contracting food poisoning because of improper food storage or the mishandling of food. If you get sick after eating at a bar, you can file a lawsuit in small claims court.
  • Alcohol Poisoning - As part of a bar's responsibility for the safety of its customers, bartenders should also refuse to serve patrons identified as too drunk. If a bar ignores this rule, it can be held responsible for any resulting injuries or deaths caused by the inebriated individual because of the bar's negligence

Settle your dispute with a demand letter

Demand letters have an 85% success rate

What To Do Before Suing a Bar

It's important to contact any person or company you plan on suing to see if you can solve the dispute prior to moving forward with the suit. Many small claims (and other) courts require you to give notice through the use of a demand letter. It is also a best practice to inform the other party because they may want to quickly resolve the issue. Lawsuits can take a long time to resolve and it may take longer to collect on your judgment. The steps below might help you reach a positive outcome faster:

  1. Contact the bar: Call them and ask them to address your issues.
  2. Contact the bar on social media: Some companies respond to Twitter and Facebook complaints faster than their own support lines.
  3. Consider filing a complaint with the BBB against the bar: The Better Business Bureau may be able to help you with your complaint against them. 
  4. Send a Demand Letter - A demand letter is a letter that outlines a set of requests. A small claims court is most likely going to ask you to formally request your money or property back before you can file a lawsuit. While you can request your money or property back orally, it is best practice to do so in the writing of a demand letter.

What goes into a Demand Letter:

If you are unsure of what to include in your demand letter to the bar, don't worry. You will want to include the following:

  • How much money you are owed
  • Why you are owed money
  • Your contact information
  • Where to send payment
  • Give them a few days to respond (usually about 7 to 14 days)
  • State that if they don't respond, you intend to sue

You will want to mail the letter to the bar in order to give them the best chance at fixing the problem.

You can generate and submit a letter through Dispute's platform in 5 minutes from your phone or computer.

How Much Does it Cost to Sue in Small Claims Court?

If the bar ignores your demand letter, what is the next step? You may consider suing the bar in a small claims court

Your first step will be to understand the fees you can expect. Primarily, those are court filing fees. The amount you will pay to file a small claims lawsuit in small claims court depends on how much you are suing the bar for. You can pay between $30 to $400 to file the lawsuit depending upon the state and local county where you are filing. If you cannot afford to pay court fees, you can ask the court directly to waive the fees. 

Once the lawsuit is filed, you must notify them that you have sued them. This is called "serving." Serving Costs can range from $0-$75 depending upon if you hire local law enforcement or a private process server.

It's important to remember, ‍if you win your case, you can also request they pay for your court fees and serving costs.

How Much Can I Sue for in Small Claims Court?

In most small claims courts, you can sue the bar for a maximum of $10,000. But it all depends on the limits set by the court where you plan to file.

By suing in small claims you are agreeing to waive any amount over the maximum amount you can sue for, even if you are owed more. For example, if the bar owes you $11,000, and you decide to sue in small claims, you are waiving suing for an additional $1,000. Meaning that you will win a maximum of $10,000.

While you may be missing out on the full amount you are owed, there are practical benefits to suing in small claims instead of suing in civil court:

Here are some of the benefits:

  1. Court filing fees are cheaper in small claims than in other courts.
  2. The process is faster in small claims than in other courts as your hearing will usually be scheduled 30-70 days after you file the lawsuit.
  3. Lawyers are generally not allowed in small claims which helps keep the costs of suing low.  

How Do I File a Small Claims Lawsuit against a Bar?

Step 1: Complete the Necessary Legal Forms to File

After sending your demand letter, you’ll want to file a statement of claim. This is the official state small claims form. For this form, you'll need the following information:

  1. The courthouse you’d like to file in
  2. Reason for the lawsuit
  3. Claim amount ($)
  4. Name and address of the person/business that is being sued

All registered businesses are required to register themselves with the state. This is called a certificate of doing business. Make sure you fill out the form corresponding to their company's county.

Small Claims forms can be difficult, and mistakes prevent your case from successfully filing. Experts at Dispute file paperwork daily, and a full support team can help you find answers to your questions. Check out our package options for filing with us - you can choose different services based on your budget and needs.

Step 2: Serve the Defendant

Once your claim has been approved by the court, you are required by law to notify the defendant that you're suing them. Different courthouses have different regulations regarding defendant service. Some require service through mail, while you may need to find a private process server for others.

Other courts require the defendant to "answer” the claim and wait for that answer before deciding to hold a hearing. Contact your courthouse for their rules to better understand what you expect.

Step 3: Prepare for Court

You can take a few steps when preparing for your day in court.

  1. Gather evidence
  2. Prepare witnesses, if you have any
  3. Dress appropriately
  4. Show up on time
  5. Present your Case

After you and the other party present your case, the court will provide a ruling. The last step is collecting your money if you are fortunate and the judge rules in your favor.

Good luck with your case, and please contact us if you have any questions about our services.

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