Unless you live in a very pricey neighborhood where you and your neighborhood both live well-financed, complicated lives, the odds are you will be suiting your neighbor in small claims court. A small claims court is a local civil court in which disputes involving relatively small amounts of money can be resolved quickly without the expense of using an attorney. Permitted claims generally range from $5,000 to $10,000, although some states are higher. You will want to check with your local court to see if your dispute is small enough. This amount is called the jurisdictional limit.
Once you've decided that you meet the jurisdictional limit, you must begin the process in most states by sending a demand letter to your neighbor. Even if your state doesn't require a demand letter, doing one is well worth your time because it puts your complaint and the remedy you seek down on paper and forces you to frame what you're looking for and why. Getdipuste.com offers a comprehensive library of demand letter templates that you can use to prepare your letter.
After you've written and sent your demand letter, you should hear something back from your neighbor. Of course, a deafening silence is also possible, and your neighbor's reaction will tell you what your next steps will likely be. Your neighbor may recognize the justice of your claim and negotiate a settlement that makes both of you happy. More likely, however, you will need to begin to prepare to go to court. Again, the exact process will vary by state, but this blog will give you an overview of the process, and Getdispute.com can give you the templates to prepare your necessary forms.
Before you file your case, you'll want to consider how strong it is, whether you are really committed to the work and time involved, and whether your neighbor will be able to pay anything that gets awarded to you. If you don't think your case is strong or don't think your neighbor can pay if you win, you may not want to commit the time and energy necessary. If, on the other hand, you think you have a strong case and a solvent neighbor, then your process will generally be as follows.
When you prepare the demand letter, you will want to be sure you know exactly who you're suing (getting names right matters here) and how much you want. After you've sent your letter, find out where the rules of your local system require you to file your case. Usually, it's something like where you or the defendant lives or what the underlying incident occurred.
Your next step is to prepare your complaint. Getdispute against has the document templates you need to help you prepare these filings. Essentially, a complaint tells the court what happened, how and why you suffered an injury due to what happened, and what money damages you want for your injury. After you draft your complaint, you must prepare whatever cover sheet your local rules require, submit any additional required documents, and pay the filing fee.
Your next step is to file with the court. Usually, you will have a waiting period after your demand letter before you can file. You will also need to consult your local rules on when and how to send a copy to the neighbor you are suing. This is called serving the complaint, and your small claims court will have specific rules and often fees for making this happen.
Once you've actually filed your suit, your neighbor gets time (usually 30 or 60 days) to answer. You may exchange evidence, and you will eventually have a hearing on a date not too long after your complaint.
After the hearing, the judge will usually decide then or within a few days afterward. If you win, your neighbor may pay right away. Some, however, won't, and you must then go to regular court to enforce your judgment and collect what your neighbor now owes you.
As you can see, even Small Claims Court is complex and somewhat time-consuming. But it does offer you a relatively fast and inexpensive way to sue your neighbor. Getdispute can make the whole thing even easier.