4 Small Claims Lawsuit Mistakes and How to Avoid Them
Did you know that U.S. state courts handle and decide on over 100 million cases yearly?
Among the most common cases filed in U.S. state courts are those handled by small claims courts. These include contract disputes, personal injury, and professional negligence, to name a few.
So if you’re considering suing someone in a small claims court, you must prepare yourself. Part of this is knowing and avoiding the most common small claims lawsuit mistakes.
Below is a guide discussing those blunders and how to steer clear of them, so read on.
Table of Contents
1. Thinking a Lawsuit Is Your Only Option
Filing a small claims lawsuit doesn’t guarantee you’ll collect anything from the defendant. For example, they may be unable to pay since they don’t have the means to, or they may refuse.
Thus, it pays to explore other avenues for resolution before taking things to court.
Let’s say an auto shop has overcharged you for repairs or has performed shoddy work on your car. As this guide on how to sue a mechanic recommends, consider resolving the matter with the auto shop first. The problem may be with the shop’s workers, but the manager may be willing to settle the issue out of court.
Another alternative is to attempt to resolve the dispute through mediation. In this case, a mediator, an independent third party, can help you and the defendant arrive at a solution.
Many counties and small claims courts offer low-cost or free mediation services. If you believe mediation will help, consider doing so, as it can be much cheaper than if you push through and sue.
2. Suing for an Amount Exceeding the State Limits
Each state enforces a maximum monetary limit for small claims court disputes. For example, natural persons or individuals in California can file a lawsuit for no more than $10,000. On the other hand, businesses in the Golden State can only sue for up to $5,000.
So before filing a lawsuit, determine your case’s exact amount first. Then, compare this with your state’s monetary limits to see if it’s within or beyond. If it’s the latter, you may have to sue in a court with a higher jurisdictional limit.
3. Forgetting About Filing Fees and Costs
Before you start your small court lawsuit filing process, prepare cash to pay filing fees. They depend on your state and your claim amount.
For example, in Massachusetts, the filing fee for a small court case ranges from $40 to $150. The $40 fee is for claims of $500 or less, while the $150 charge is for claims between $5,001 and $7,000. You may also have to pay a fee to serve the defendant.
4. Missing the Lawsuit Filing Deadline
Deadlines depend on the types of claims; a breach of an oral contract, for example, has a two-year deadline. You must also usually file a personal injury claim two years from the date of your injury or its discovery. For a breach of a written contract, the deadline is typically within four years from the incident.
Failing to file a lawsuit on or before that deadline can result in the judge dismissing your case.
Never Commit These Small Claims Lawsuit Mistakes
From thinking suing is your only option to missing deadlines, these are all errors to avoid at all costs. Because if you commit these small claims lawsuit mistakes, you have higher odds of losing. Your case may also become invalid, prompting the judge to dismiss it.
So, steer clear of those blunders by following our tips instead.
For more law-related guides like this, check out our other informative news and blog posts.