Small claims court is an attractive option for those seeking small amounts of money. You can sue for an injury and for only a relatively small fee.
The only concern is that you’ll likely have to represent yourself . A number of states don’t permit lawyers in small claims court, and the rest encourage litigants to go at it alone.
If you’re a little hesitant about this part, don’t worry. Here’s how you prepare for small claims court.
1. Write down your story. In detail, now. Mark down every single thing that happened — what you did, when you did it and the defendant’s response.
2. Gather evidence. Determine if you have evidence that supports your claim. You’ll need receipts, medical bills and records, police reports, letters and leases. If you need a witness, gather her too.
3. Calculate your damages. If you do anything to prepare for small claims court, this is it. You will need to prove why the defendant owes you money and how much. Create a spreadsheet of each expense, the amount and your overall total. If you’re asking for bad faith damages, pain and suffering or lost wages, be sure to add those as well. But remember, you’ll need evidence to justify their payment.
4. Organize. Small claims judges don’t have a lot of time to hear your case, so it’s imperative to give a succinct, organized explanation of the events. Outline your story and then separate evidence to support each bullet point. Have it clipped together and ordered when you go to court.
5. Practice. Go through your story a few times and become comfortable with using your evidence. Try to anticipate any questions the judge may ask, and any arguments put forth by the other party.
Once you’ve accomplished these steps, you should be prepared for small claims court. However, there’s one more thing you can to — remind yourself to be appropriate. This is a court, so dress respectfully, be polite and follow directions.
- Have an injury claim? Get your claim reviewed for free. (Consumer Injury)
- Obligation of Personal Injury Plaintiff to Reduce Damages (FindLaw)
- How To Resolve Your Consumer Complaint: Self-Help or Class Action? (FindLaw)
- Top 3 Ways to Collect in Small Claims Court (FindLaw’s Law & Daily Life)