In our ever-changing world, it can be hard to find a place where you aren't being recorded by something. Smartphones, random devices connected to wifi, and even security cameras are taking up more and more public space. Many states have some laws that support the capture of recordings (audio or video) in public spaces. But, it is your right to a reasonable expectation of privacy as it is protected by the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution. In short, you may be able to sue someone in small claims court for recording you illegally, or without your permission.
This article will cover some of the reasons why people choose to sue, and how you can go about suing in small claims court without a lawyer.
Dispute can help you generate, notarize and file a case within minutes from your phone or computer.
Take Action in Small Claims
One of the most accessible legal forums is Small Claims Court where you can sue a company or individual for up to $10,000 in most states without the need for a lawyer. Small Claims Court offers you the opportunity to explain your complaint to a judge who has the power to order the other party to pay you the money that is owed.
In addition, Small Claims Court has additional benefits for the layman seeking legal action:
- Small Claims Court Processes and procedures are generally simpler to follow than other more formal courts
- Small Claims Court Filings are cheaper than filing in other courts
- Lawyers are not usually allowed in Small Claims Courts.
- The process is fast. You can usually expect a hearing within 1-2 months after your filing.
Reasons to Sue for an Illegal Recording
If you are considering suing someone for illegal recording, its likely that the record must fit into one of certain criteria and laws defined by your state. These criteria can include:
- The recording happened without your permission
- It took place on private property, or somewhere you had a reasonable expectation of privacy (like a doctor's office)
- They recorded a conversation or activity that you expected to be private
- It happened without the consent of a federal or state warrant
But before you file your lawsuit, you will want to look up your state's specific laws on this topic. Many states do allow some recording of a conversation if one person in the conversation knowingly consents. That's called "single-party consent". If you do believe you have a case against someone for recording you, then small claims can be your avenue to justice.
How to Sue in Small Claims (On Your Own)
It's important to note that the process can vary from state to state. But typically, suing in small claims court involves the following:
- Write and Send a Demand Letter - Many courts ask that you send (and show proof) of a short, one-to-two-page formal request that lets the recipient know that they’ll face legal action if they don’t comply.
- Fill Out the Court Forms - Each court has different forms required to file a case with them. Some states (such as California) have one form that covers the whole state, while others (such as Florida) have different forms depending on the location of the court. Don't forget you'll need to sign these forms and possibly have them notarized as well.
- File the Forms with the Court - You'll need to either access their online portal or head to the courthouse directly to file your completed forms. Often, the court asks you to bring multiple copies so they can distribute the filing appropriately and they always charge some type of filing fee. The price of this fee varies ($25 - 400 depending upon the courthouse) and it can be awarded back to you if you win the case.
- Serve the Defendant - If your case is accepted, most courthouses will ask that you "serve" the other party. This means you are notifying the defendant that a hearing is going to occur and the reason for it.
- Attend your Hearing - After all that is said and done, you'll want to prepare for court and then attend your scheduled hearing where you'll present your case. Hopefully, the judge is empathetic toward your issue, and rules in your favor.
You may notice that even if filing in Small Claims Court is easier, it can take up a lot of your time. That's not to mention the time you may lose repeating a step or two if you accidentally do something wrong.
Whereas, if you use Dispute, you can generate a demand letter and small claims document within minutes from your phone or computer. We will connect you with the right forms from the courthouse you choose, and even file them on your behalf.
How to Sue Using Dispute
Here’s how you can file a small claim case with Dispute in a few easy steps:
1. Head to our website to access our software:
2. Click "Get Started" and choose the "Small Claims" service (or another if you'd like to start somewhere else).
3. Enter your case information including your info, the defendant's info and a summary of the issue.
4. Choose the courthouse where you want to file, answer their form's specific questions, and sign the document.
Now you're on your way to preparing and filing a case directly with the court from your phone or computer.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Do I need a lawyer for Small Claims Court?
- Not necessarily. One of the easier things about small claims court is that lawyers aren’t usually required. This may make the small claims process less intimidating and more affordable. But, still, the small claims process can get complicated. Consider filing through Dispute, as we simplify the small process with our software.
How much does it cost to file a Small Claims Case?
- Court Filing Fees: The amount you will pay to file a small claims lawsuit depends on how much you are suing for and where you are suing. You can expect to pay between $30 to $400 to file the lawsuit. _If you cannot afford to pay court fees, you can ask the court to waive the fees. _Dispute charges a small fee to help generate, sign and/or file any documents on your behalf.
- Serving Costs: Once the lawsuit is filed, you must notify the other party that you have sued them. This is called "serving." Serving Costs can range from $20-100 depending on the local area.
If you have any questions about filing a small claims case against someone or accessing Dispute's software, please reach out and contact us.