Small Claims Court is the last resort for a small business owner who is trying to collect a debt. Of course, those who feel they've been treated unfairly by business owners can also use Small Claims Court.
If you have never been in Small Claims Court, you should know that if you don't know what to expect, you'll probably worry until you get there.
Keep in mind that I am not an attorney, I'm a businessman. I therefore have a different perspective on going to Small Claims Court than a lawyer would have. And while I can't give you any legal advice, I can tell you what Small Claims Court is like and what to expect when you get there.
Small Claims Court isn't nearly as scary as a real court room. It also bears little resemblance to the courts depicted on TV. Even the "reality" TV court shows such as "The People's Court" aren't exactly on the mark, though they're pretty close.
In this article I'll show you what Small Claims Court is really like and what you need to know to hold your own and even leave the courtroom a winner.
Of course this information applies only to Small Claims Courts in the US, but several of the principles I'll talk about are also used in similar courts around the world.
Small Claims Court is different in every state. There are limits on the maximum dollar amount that you can file a claim for, usually between $4,000 and $20,000. Most states won't allow a lawyer to be involved, but some will. If your state permits the use of an attorney, his fee will often exceed the amount of the claim anyway.
Most areas offer the option of using a mediation service in order to avoid the courtroom. In almost all cases, the suit must be filed in the Small Claims Court that is closest to the defendant.
The first thing you should ask yourself is "Do I really need to file a lawsuit?" Have you exhausted all your other options? A lawsuit should be your last resort, because you may not win! Once you have decided that you do need to file a claim, you should be prepared for the possibility that you may lose and never get the money owed to you.
Also be aware that winning your lawsuit doesn't automatically mean that you'll be able to recover the money won in the judgment. Rarely does the losing party immediately write a hand over money won in a Small Claims Court lawsuit.
Most likely, you'll still have to use debt collection options, but winning your case will definitely increase your chances of collecting.
Small Claims Court, Part 2 >>
Aaron Turpen is the owner of Aaronz WebWorkz, a full service
company catering to small business on the Internet.
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