Owe Money? Small Claims Lawsuits 101


Maybe it’s a landlord who hasn’t returned a deposit, or a person is responsible for damaging your property and hasn’t paid for it to be fixed – whatever the issue, a situation can arise where you are owed money, and the health of your finances demands that it be repaid.

Unfortunately, you’ve requested the funds on multiple occasions, and no funds have been forthcoming. Entirely understandably, your patience is wearing thin.

It is at this point that many people contemplate filing a suit with the small claims court – but this process is intricate, complex, and not suitable for all debts that you are owed.

As a result, we thought it might be helpful to outline a few things you need to know about the process…


#1 – You (probably) don’t need a lawyer

Very few small claims processes actually require legal representation, so the process of filing a suit does not need to be prohibitively expensive – and any costs incurred can be recouped if you win.

However, you will need to familiarize yourself with the process, find the right court, and complete your own paperwork, so you’ll need to ensure you have the time available to do all of this if you decide to sue.


#2 – You will, however, need some assistance during your suit

While much of the process of filing a small claims suit can be self-managed, there is one part of the process that you literally cannot do: serve papers to the defendant.

Papers have to be served by someone who is not involved in the suit, so you will need to find a process server in your area to complete this task on your behalf.


#3 – You can only sue up to a certain amount

If you need to sue for an amount over $10,000, then small claims court is unlikely to be the best choice for you – through the upper limit does vary by state, so it’s worth checking local regulations.

If the amount you wish to sue for is above your state’s limit, then you will likely need to speak to a legal expert for more specific assistance.


#4 – You can only sue within a certain amount of time

Before filing, you will need to check that your suit falls within the statute of limitations for the specific type of debt.

The length of time you have to use varies depending on the reason for the suit and your region, so you’ll need to check you are within these limits for your specific area before starting legal proceedings.


#5 – Winning your case does not mean immediate payment

If you win your case, then the unfortunate truth is that the matter is not necessarily instantly settled.

In some cases, the defendant will pay, but you may need to pursue further collection methods – such as a wage garnishment, which is arranged with a local sheriff – in order to receive the funds. It is therefore important to see the small claims process as potentially just the start of the process and be prepared to take further action if required.


In conclusion

Hopefully, the above has helped to explain filing a small claims suit in a little more detail, so you can be sure such a route is the right choice when seeking to recoup the money you are owed.


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