Choosing to Sue in Small Claims Court: When Is It Appropriate?
Published On: September 26, 2009
Small Claims Court handles civil cases where the plaintiff (person or entity who sues) is asking for $7,500 or less from the defendant(person or entity being sued). Disputes are resolved quickly and inexpensively in Small Claims Court.*
Although you can ask a lawyer’s advice before or after the court hearing, in California you are not allowed to have a lawyer represent you at the Small Claims Court Hearing.
The hearing is relatively informal: no lawyers, no rules of evidence, no juries. A judge, or a judge pro tem, will hear and decide your case.
Why Do I Occasionally Advise Clients To Go To Small Claims Court?
Why my interest in telling you about Small Claims Court? Most of the cases that I handle are personal injury cases. If it’s a small case, then I often recommend that instead of using my services to litigate the matter then you, the client, might be better served by taking it to Small Claims Court.
When I handle a case, it may take months or years to get resolved. This makes practical sense when the case value exceeds the maximum, jurisdictional amountthat you are allowed to sue for in Small Claims Court. However, for cases valued at less than $7,500 (in California), going to Small Claims Court might bring you to resolution within a much shorter period of time while keeping your costs to a minimum.
Wondering (aka Worrying) About How To Present Your Case?
I’ve thought about this over and over. My style of representation is based largely in part on my wanting to fix things for my clients, to make things better for you, to get justice for you. The last thing that I want you to do is struggle or stress out over your case.
Small claims court is appropriate for cases of all kinds, not only personal injury. For example, clients just like you have come to me with a myriad of legal issues for which I’ve directed them to Small Claims Court:
- Landlord will not return your security deposit
- You bought something that doesn’t work and the store won’t fix it
- You lent money to someone who refuses to pay you back
- Tenant damaged your property and their security deposit won’t cover the repairs
- You’ve performed services and the customer refuses to pay
- Your neighbor’s dog tore up your screen door
- and a myriad of other situations
…and justice for all
So, just because a lawyer can’t represent you in Small Claims Court doesn’t mean that the case can’t be prepared for you by a lawyer in a professional manner. After all, you are in court to win your case and want to persuade the judge that your position is the winning position .
Small Claims Package
At your request, and for a much lower fee than the 1/3 to 40% that I charge to handle your case, we will prepare a Small Claims Package which will include a professionally prepared brief, exhibits (color photos, relevant medical records and bills, witness statements, property damage bills, etc.), help you fill out the proper Judicial Council Forms and get them filed with the court, pay the Court Fees, find the proper courthouse (venue) for your case to be heard and get the defendant(s) served. We will even subpoena records and witnesses, if necessary. I, or another lawyer on my staff, will prepare you for the court hearing, advise you what to expect in court from the judge, the court clerk, the defendant and then what to do after the judge decides the case.