How to Sue Someone in Small Claims Court
By Chris Kramer
Suing someone in small claims court is an efficient way to get compensation for a minor injury. Events that lead to small claims often include broken contracts, personal injuries, and property damage.
But even small claims lawsuits may involve lots of state laws, and the proceedings may be complicated. Even for minor matters many people turn to a personal injury lawyer for help with their case.
Could working with an attorney help your case? Get a free case evaluation with an injury attorney near you when you complete the form on this page.
Steps to Sue Someone in Small Claims Court
As mentioned above, there are a wide variety of claims for which you can seek legal relief in a small claims court. These include car accident damages, including personal injury and property damage, as well as broken contracts and other assorted injuries.
If you choose to file a complaint in small claims court, you should consider taking the follow steps:
- Gather evidence. To prove your case, you’ll need to bring key items of proof like photographs of the accident scene, copies of canceled checks, or written contracts.
- Get the figures right. It is important to only sue for the amount of damages you deserve. Don’t unnecessarily inflate your requested compensation.
- Know the law. Arrive in court armed with the knowledge to defend your case.
While some plaintiffs file in small claims court without the aid of an attorney, many others have found it helpful to consult a local lawyer for legal information.
In addition, you may also want to consider filing a lawsuit outside of small claims court, particularly if you have suffered a more serious injury. Small claims courts offer quick, efficient relief, but they can only order a limited amount of compensation.
Plus, what seems like a small injury may lead to big medical bills down the road. If your injury, however minor, affects your ability to do your job or affects your quality of life, you may be entitled to a larger settlement for your losses.
Limitations in Small Claims Court
Figuring out how to sue someone in small claims court involves more than gathering evidence and determining the amount of relief you want to seek. There are also limits on your ability to file complaints in small claims court. These include:
- Statute of limitations. Most causes of action expire a few years after the injury occurs. These vary by claim and by state. A local lawyer can help you determine if your claim has expired.
- Maximum penalty. Again, the exact amount varies by state, but most small claims courts do not handle cases asking for relief in excess of $7,000. If you believe you are entitled to a larger amount, you may consider filing a personal injury lawsuit.
- Other considerations. In order to file in small claims court, you must also hire someone to serve process on the person you are suing, and consider issues of venue and jurisdiction.
Thus, suing someone in small claims court has both advantages and disadvantages. You will get a speedy trial, but you may not collect the amount of relief you deserve.
To learn more about your state’s laws and whether you should pursue your action in a small claims court, speak with a local injury lawyer today.