Steps to follow when filing a small claims court claim

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By Yosi Yahoudai
Founder and Managing Partner

Nearly 4,000 small claims are filed each day in the Los Angeles area alone. This legal resource is frequently used because it allows the common citizen to resolve their disputes quickly, easily and, best of all, economically.

The most common types of small claims are:

  • Property damage
  • Contract breaches and business disputes
  • Defective products or unsatisfactory services
  • Disputes between landlords and tenants, including: fraud, accidents and personal injuries and unpaid debts

The following steps summarize the process of filing a small claim:

Submit paperwork:

Go to your county clerk’s office and tell them you want to file a small claim. The clerk’s office will give you the papers to fill out with the basic information of your case including: your name, the name of the person or company you are suing, and the amount you are asking for. Make sure you have the correct name and address, otherwise your case may be dismissed.

To process your claim, you will have to pay court fees. Fees for filing a small claims vary by county in California, but are typically around $80.

Notify Defendant:

Once you have filed your lawsuit, you must notify the defendant of it. This is called “service of process” and can be done using certified mail, or through a state-licensed notary. Once your lawsuit has been filed and notified, the court will process it. Only after the other party is successfully served will the court set a pre-trial hearing or trial date.

Go to court:

Many courts require both parties to attend a pre-trial hearing. At the pre-trial hearing, it is not possible to bring witnesses, only documents to prove your case. Both parties can choose to have the case heard by a mediator, instead of going to trial.

The final sentence:

The judge will make a final judgment after both parties have presented their arguments. The plaintiff usually has to show that he or she is entitled to the amount of money or property requested.

The defendant may appeal the judgment if they wish. Unlike a small claim, the appeal must be tried in a formal manner that strictly follows all the rules of evidence and procedure of a regular trial.

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About the Author
Yosi Yahoudai is a founder and the managing partner of J&Y. His practice is comprised primarily of cases involving automobile and motorcycle accidents, but he also represents people in premises liability lawsuits, including suits alleging dangerous conditions of public property, third-party criminal conduct, and intentional torts. He also has expertise in cases involving product defects, dog bites, elder abuse, and sexual assault. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from the University of California and is admitted to practice in all California State Courts, and the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. If you have any questions about this article, you can contact Yosi by clicking here.