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 is not it really a separate court with separate judges, but they do treat claims of a lower value differently.
ELIOT WAGONHEIM: There are streamline procedures, so that there may or may not be a lot of a pretrial procedures that would be available and undertaken in a larger case. Trial dates that come up sooner, so there is not as much of a wait, but it is 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 bases for your lawsuit.
ELIOT WAGONHEIM: You have to write down why you owed money and how much you owe.
IRWIN KRAMER: After you file your complaint, you then have to served on the defended, 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 is almost as if the debtor said “Oh! I didn’t realize you were serious about needing you 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 owed money and 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 $1000 being the maximum amount for small claim up to $15,000 being the 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.