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The people's court

Preparing for small claims court

Know where you must file your claim.

Know the dollar amount of your claim.

Know the reason why you are suing the other party.

Know the defendant.  Is the defendant an individual, an individual doing business as, corporation, a partnership or a government agency.

When serving the defendant for the lawsuit follow the rules carefully.

Prepare for your day in court with backup documentation and supporting evidence.

When you appear in court, be calm, polite and brief. Summarize your claim and damages, then explain why the other person is at fault. Refer to your backup documentation and supporting evidence.

More on preparing your claim

Small claims court, also known as the people's court, is for cases that can be decided quickly and economically, where hearings are informal and you do not need a lawyer.

How to win your case in small claims court without a lawyer
by Charlie Mann.
Ocala, Fla. : Atlantic Pub. Group, c2009.
Small claims court is a place where many people look to equalize the playing field against individuals, businesses, or partnerships that have wronged them in the past. According to information gathered by Laywers.com, your limitations range anywhere between $2,000 and $10,000 in small claims courts and hundreds of thousands of Americans end up there each year with a case. Many people cannot afford the cost of a lawyer to ensure their case is solid and well presented before the court and are left out in the cold as a result. Small claims courts are not nearly as simple as those television judges make it seem, fixing problems in 30 minutes on daytime television. If you are not fully prepared with the right paperwork, proof, and witnesses, you may end up worse off than before. With this comprehensive guide to winning your small claims case without a lawyer, you will get just that ¿ a complete run through of everything you need to know before you submit your case to the court and the subsequent information you need to win that case. Starting with a checklist of everything you need before you even look to file a claim, you will learn how the courts work and all of the legal jargon that will be thrown about during the court case process. You will learn how to state a claim in formal documents and ultimately whether your case is in fact any good before you file it.
     
Small claims court guidebook
Michael Spadaccini.
[Irvine, CA] : Entrepreneur Press, c2008.
  1. "How to evaluate, research, plan, file and execute a successful case; instruction and advice for all 50 states."
  2. Includes index.
  3. Evaluating your case -- How to get help with your case -- Specific types of cases and claims -- Procedural matters : the statute of limitations, jurisdiction, and more -- Demand letters and settling your case -- Who can sue and who can be sued -- Filing (and answering) the complaint -- Giving notice to your opponent: serving the complaint -- Subpoenas, witnesses, and evidence -- The hearing and oral presentation -- Appealing the judgment -- Collecting (or avoiding the collection of) a judgment.
     
Small claims courts
by Margaret C. Jasper.
Dobbs Ferry, N.Y. : Oceana Publications, 2005.
Writing for individuals starting a lawsuit and for those who have been sued, Jaspers, an attorney, covers the procedures used in small claims court, including how to file a claim, proceed to trial, and obtain and enforce the judgment. Small claims action, as well as an overview of the small claims division of the U.S. Tax Court are also covered. An appendix provides sample forms, and a glossary of terms is included. Annotation 2004 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
     

Have you been wronged? Has another person failed to fulfill a contract or taken advantage of you that resulted in a financial loss? Has another person done something or failed to do something that was negligent resulting in injury or damage to you or your property? Can you prove another person caused a loss to you and that there is some basis in the law for the court to award money for the damages? Then you may have a valid claim.

Small claims courts vary from state to state including the amount for which you can sue, who you can sue and what papers are needed to be filed. Be sure to check the details of your state's law for proper procedures.

In an attempt to settle your dispute before you file your claim, you can seek the help of neutral third parties, mediators and arbitrators. A mediator facilitates settlement discussions and an arbitrator makes a decision after you present a summary and argue your case. After discussions the other side just might be more accommodating than you thought.

But if settling the dispute is out of the question then small claims court is your key to success.

Article by: St. Louis Public Library staff