In small claims court, people with civil disputes over money, contracts, or property can be granted a solution by the power of the court. Although small claims court deals with cases of relatively low monetary value, understanding the steps and process of a small claims trial can seem overwhelming and emotionally draining. There are many sources of small claims advice that can help make both the legal and the mental process easier to handle.
One of the best sources of small claims advice are the applicable laws. Most regions have detailed laws regarding the types of issues that come up in small claims court, such as landlord/tenant disputes, breach of contract, or recovery and replacement of damaged property. While these laws are often available online, also consider asking the county clerk for a small claims handbook. These are usually free booklets that explain the basics of small claims court in the region, including details on the types of lawsuit allowed, maximum damages permitted, and necessary forms.
The county clerk can be one of the best sources of small claims advice. While clerks are not permitted to give specific legal advice, they can provide general information and provide resources for further sources of small claims advice. Most county clerks have phone or in-person appointments available on business days for anyone needing basic guidance.
Since one of the hardest questions to answer may be whether going to small claims court is a good idea at all, having a consultation with a lawyer may be helpful in some cases. Some lawyers will offer free phone consultations, which may be all that's necessary to answer basic questions about taking a dispute to court. Remember that while lawyers can be excellent sources of small claims advice, most regions require parties in small claims to represent themselves during the trial. On the other hand, there are no laws preventing a party to a lawsuit from hiring a lawyer to prepare documentation and give tips on presenting the case to a judge.
Regardless of the amount of money involved in the suit, a small claims court can be emotionally exhausting and full of frustration. While searching for good legal advice is important, remember that some sources of small claims advice and help can come from friends and family as well. Present the facts of a case to objective friends who are good at arguments, and ask for help refining the claim before going to court. Check to see if family members or good friends know lawyers who would be willing to reduce rates or do a free consultation. While friends and family may not be able to help with legal advice, they can sometimes make the experience and process easier to bear.