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When you resort to the small claims court, keep your case simple and your questions short.
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Eliot Wagonheim: It is the front line of Civil Court as far as consumers are concerned.
Irwin Kramer: In most States, the small claims court isn't really a separate court with separate judges, but they do treat claims of a lower value differently.
Eliot Wagonheim: There are streamlined procedures, so that they may or may not be a lot of the pretrial procedures that would be available and undertaken in a larger case. Trial dates that come up sooner, so there's not as much of a way. But it's not as simple as just walking up to the counter and asking for your money.
Irwin Kramer: In most states the Court Clerk will give you a form, where you can state the basis for your lawsuit.
Eliot Wagonheim: You have to write down why you are owed money, and how much you are owed?
Irwin Kramer: After you file your complaint, you then have to have it served on the defendant so that they have an opportunity to respond to the lawsuit and defend.
Eliot Wagonheim: A lot of times, once you file your complaint and you serve a copy on the debtor, you get paid. Because it's almost as if the debtor said, "Oh! I didn't realize you were serious about needing your money."
Irwin Kramer: And if the defendant ignores your lawsuit like he ignored your bills, many State courts will send you your judgment by mail without your ever having to appear in court.
Eliot Wagonheim: If you personally are owed money, not your company, but you personally, you can always represent yourself in every state, you don't need a lawyer.
Irwin Kramer: Companies may appear without a lawyer in 46 states out of 50, but what defines a small claim will very greatly depending on what state you are in.
Eliot Wagonheim: I think the lowest is $1,000 being the maximum for small claim. Up to $15,000 being maximum amount for a small claim.
Irwin Kramer: If you have a small claim that isn't so small, you might just want to take your lawyer with you anyway, just to be sure you are doing all you can to win.