A Quick Consumer’s Guide to Small Claims Court

A Quick Consumer’s Guide to Small Claims Court

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A Quick Consumer’s Guide to Small Claims CourtWhat is Small Claims Court?
A Small Claims Court is a legal venue existing under the jurisdiction of Civil Law with which legal matters involving smaller sums of money, damages, and torts may be heard in lieu of larger courts, such as municipal, county, state, and Federal courts. Within the Small Claims Court system in the United States of America, statutory legislation varies on a state-by-state basis with regard to the bulk of legal matters deemed eligible to be heard before a Small Claims Court; this includes:
The maximum monetary amount for which a plaintiff claims for the purpose of financial restitution
The nature of the legal matter to be heard before an individual State’s Small Claims Court
The ability to alter or adjust the monetary amount of a respective claim brought before the court
Corollary legal matters and legal fields that may be heard within a Small Claims Court; for instance, in certain States, issues with regard to Family Law and Tort Law may be tried by a Small Claims Court; however, this is practice is not uniform with regard to the entirety of Small Claims Courts

How to File a Claim for Small Claims Court

In the event that an individual wishes to engage within arbitration or litigation within the venue provided by a Small Claims Court, both their respective State of residence – as well as the respective nature of the legal matter – will be required to be taken into consideration prior to filing a claim:

Step 1: Monetary Assessment

Due to the fact Small Claims Courts institute individual limits with regard to the monetary amount corollary to a claim, the individual with be required to ensure that the gross amount of financial restitution sought after does not exceed the State-imposed limit. While – in certain cases – individuals may be permitted to claim a smaller amount of damages in order to qualify for eligibility within a Small Claims Court, certain States will not allow this adjustment:
The act of ‘court shopping’ is a process deemed to be illegal in certain States; this act involves an individual claimant attempting to adjust the gross amount of damage claims in order to be eligible for review within Small Claims Court in lieu of the fact that the gross amount of monetary claims exceed the limits imposed by that State’s Small Claims Court

Step 2: Litigation and Arbitration

In the event that an individual qualifies for Small Claims Court judicial review, they will be required to determine the means of desired litigation with regard to the hearing:
Individuals are permitted to represent themselves before a Small Claims Court
Individuals are typically not permitted to review by a jury; rarely – if ever – does juries exist within a Small Claims Court
In certain cases, mediation or alternative forms of conflict resolution exist in tandem with the engagement of a Small Claims Court; although judicial personnel will be unable to provide legal advice, consultation with an attorney will assist in this determination

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