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7 Common Types of Lawsuits Seen in Small Claims Court

Posted on Jul 8, 2019

7 Common Types of Lawsuits Seen in Small Claims Court

Before you decide to pursue a small claims case, it is important to determine whether the facts of your case fall into the realm small claims court. There do happen to be limitations regarding what kinds of cases can be seen in small claims courtrooms. What are the most common types of small claims lawsuits? 

(This list does not include all of the types of lawsuits seen in small claims but some of the most common.)

Bad Debt

A bad debt is a type of contract case. In order to succeed in small claims court with this type of case, you need to have proof that the debt exists as well as its amount. You will also need evidence of when the payment was due as well proof that the person who owes you money has not paid it (in whole or part).

Breach of Contract

In this case, one or more terms of a contract (oral, written or implied) has been broken by the defendant. 

Breach of Warranty

An implied or written warranty that has been extended to you by a merchant, has been breached and, as a result, you suffered a monetary loss. 

Failure to Return a Security Deposit

This type of contract case takes place commonly between landlords and tenants when a landlord fails to return a security deposit. Evidence is necessary to prove that a deposit was made, that the premises were cleaned and undamaged upon exit and that security deposit funds were not returned.

Personal Injury

In this type of case, the plaintiff is suing due to intentional or negligent behavior that has caused they suffered personal injury.

Professional Malpractice

A professional such as a doctor lawyer or other professional has failed to use the skills of other ordinary members of their profession which results in harm toward the plaintiff. 

Property Damage

Irrational or careless behavior results in damage to the suing party’s personal property.

3 Mistakes to Avoid in Small Claims Court

Posted on Nov 12, 2018

3 Mistakes to Avoid in Small Claims Court

If you have to go to small claims court, you are going with one objective in mind: to win. Although there are steps you can take to increase the chances that you will do just that, there are also some blunders you could make that have the capability of costing you points in the courtroom. Below are some of the most common and damaging mistakes made in small claims court.

Failing to Adequately Prepare

This is probably the most obvious mistake one can make in small claims court. Failing to take the time to properly prepare for your case can cost you. Information often helps win a case. It is important you have the appropriate information ready before you even file a lawsuit to prevent your case from bouncing. Be sure you have the correct names, dates, addresses, and any other details necessary to support your claim.

Assuming the Judge Already Knows About Your Case

You know what happened to you and why you are heading to small claims court in the first place in an attempt to have justice served. You also know what it is you need to prove. But you need more than just that. You need to be able to articulate it to the judge in a way that helps him understand the situation so he can make a ruling that supports your position. Rambling on about the details without focus is a good way to turn the judge from you and can create confusion.

Deciding Against Using a Lawyer

Lawyers help people on a regular basis. There is wisdom in talking with one about the ins and outs of court before you step foot in the courtroom. A lawyer not only can help to represent you but can help you to prep for trial. Failing to consult a lawyer can be a terrible mistake when it comes to winning your court case. Some small claims courts may not allow you to be represented by counsel but you can still speak to one before you file your claim.

Do not be rash and jump right into the option of pursuing a case in small claims court without being well prepared beforehand.

Filing and Presenting Your Small Claims Appeal

Posted on Oct 8, 2018

Filing and Presenting Your Small Claims Appeal

If your small claims ruling was not in your favor and you feel the judgement was wrong, you can file a small claims appeal. Below are some tips on how to file and present your appeal.

It is important to know that the rules that cover small claims appeals may vary from state to state. Because of this, the first thing you should do is obtain a copy of your state’s small claims appeal rules and familiarize yourself with them.

File Promptly

All states require appeals to be filed promptly, typically within 10 to 30 days. In some states, you need to file a notice of appeal within 30 days after the judgement has been mailed to you by the court clerk. This means that if the decision was mailed to you, you have less than 30 days to file once you have received the documents.

Fees

Appeal fees are often higher than the initial filing fee. You may be required to post a cash bond in your state to cover the amount of the judgement, should you lose.

Do You Need a Lawyer?

You are entitled to have a lawyer represent you in the appeals court, but it may not be cost efficient to hire one considering how much you already have to pay to appeal. Weigh the pros and cons and know that you do not need a lawyer to make a good impression at an appeal. Simply be prepared and respectful and you can make just as impressive a showing at your appeal.

Presenting Your Appeal

Give careful thought to any improvement your presentation can benefit from. This is sage advice for both sides of the judgement but especially true to the person who lost previously. Ask yourself if the judge decided against you because you presented poorly or perhaps because your statements were not backed up with evidence. If the answer to either is yes, you may need to do a little more work.

If you are feeling the pre-case jitters, try to calm yourself and be prepared. You may want to read Represent Yourself in Court: How to Prepare & Try a Winning Case by Paul Bergman. And know that if you do not understand something during the appeal process, you are allowed to politely ask the judge for an explanation.

How Small Claims Court Judgments Affect Your Credit

Posted on Sep 10, 2018

How Small Claims Court Judgments Affect Your Credit

Some of the things that are included in your credit report are small claims court judgments against you. Information on civil judgments can be collected by credit bureaus and may have significant negative effects on your credit report. The judgments may remain in your credit report for up to seven years after the judgment and not the date of the debt.

 

Public Information

Courts are not generally required to report small claims judgments to credit bureaus. However, civil judgments are considered public documents that can be accessed by individuals or organizations. Credit bureaus usually assemble data on small claims on their own. Unfortunately, debtors must update their records to prove that their debts were paid. Although a paid judgment still has negative effects on your credit report, it is much better than an unpaid one.

 

Credit Report Damage

Small claims judgments have multiple negative effects on credit reports. While this is true, civil judgments can have some of the worst negative effects on your credit file. In addition, the effects of a civil judgment can be more damaging if the lawsuit and judgment was the result of a delinquent credit account. If the debtor does not appear at trial date, the court would enter a default judgment on the debtor’s records. Default judgments have the worst negative effects on your credit because they give the impression that you did not even bother to attend a trial.

 

Statute of Limitations

Statutes of limitations play important roles in small claims actions, or even the avoidance of such claims. Unfortunately, statutes of limitations can be quite long ranging from 12 to 20 years. In some cases, the SOL can even be renewed restarting the clock all over again. It is important to research the statute of limitations for your state, especially when sued for an old debt. If your suit is initiated after the expiry date, you can inform the court and have the case dismissed.

Get Your Security Deposit Back in Small Claims Court

Posted on Aug 13, 2018

Get Your Security Deposit Back in Small Claims Court

Get the money back that is owed to you.

You have decided to move and are dealing with what seems to be a landlord from you-know-where, who evidently has no intentions of returning your security deposit. He claims that he is entitled to keep the money to repair damages you did to the property, although you know you left the place in no worse condition than it was when you found it (and maybe even improved it somewhat out of your own pocket). What do you do now?

Getting Your Deposit Back with Small Claims Court

Security deposit disputes are one of the most common issues in small claims court. To file a claim, you need to formally file your complaint with the court. States do issue a statute of limitations, or a time limit, so it is important that you check with your state to determine how long you have to file.

If you are in the same state your former landlord and property you rented, you can file in the district closest to your landlord’s home or in the court closest to the property you rented. Some states may have different filing rules so you may want to contact a local small claims clerk for more details.

You also need to prepare for your side of the case. You should write down why you are suing the landlord. It can be a small paragraph, explaining to the judge your case while telling him your side of the story. It will do you well to investigate the local law of security deposits so you can determine what you are entitled to and so you can explain what your landlord did wrong. Be sure to include the legal name and a recent address for the landlord.

Once you turn everything in, you will receive a trial date and case number. The other party will also receive a notice from the court or mail, or you can have the papers served by a process server for an extra fee.

When it is time to step into court, be sure you have as much evidence as possible to back up what you say to the judge. Explain why you are entitled to receive your deposit back and share any documents you have to solidify your side, to increase your chances of receiving your monies due to you.

Taking a Contractor to Small Claims Court

Posted on Jul 11, 2018

Taking a Contractor to Small Claims Court

What do you do when a home improvement job doesn’t go as planned?

Sometimes things do not go as planned. Although most contractors do what they have to in order to satisfy their clients, occasionally you may run into a stubborn contractor who refuses to budge. If you have a dispute with a home contractor, small claims court can be beneficial to you. So how exactly can you recover your money from a difficult contractor?

Negotiate First

Disputes with home contractors are not uncommon. Sometimes the wrong materials will be used by the contractor or perhaps they fail to complete the project entirely or properly. If you run into these circumstances, you need to first make an effort to negotiate with the contractor outside of court. Have a conversation about the issue. There may have been a misunderstanding that can be resolved outside of court.

Another option may be to write a letter to the contractor, which may be taken a little more seriously than a verbal complaint – especially if you make mention of “legal rights” in the event that a resolution cannot be worked out.

Taking Your Contractor to Small Claims Court

If the above approaches fail, you may need to move forward in court to get the contractor’s attention. Keep in mind that small claims court often has limited jurisdiction, meaning some judges are limited in the ways they can help you. Some courts have a monetary limit. For example, some small claims courts in the state of Indiana cannot help you if you are suing for an amount over $3,000, while other courts in the state (such as Marion County) will allow as much as a $6,000 settlement.

Small claims courts also only award money damages. That means that the judge cannot order your contractor to fix the problem he created or finish work on your house.

When you are ready to file, contact the clerk of the court to gather and obtain the required paperwork. You will also need documentation to show you were harmed in the business relationship as well as any payments made, work done (including photos), and agreements (whether verbal or written). It typically costs around $50 to file, although there may be additional fees for collection if your contractor loses the case yet fails to pay.

Small claims court is usually a less expensive avenue than civil court when it comes to resolving issues with a home contractor. This may make it a good option for you if your claim total falls below the allotted amount in your area.

5 Tips for Success as a Plaintiff in Small Claims Court

Posted on Jun 11, 2018

5 Tips for Success as a Plaintiff in Small Claims Court

Improve your odds for success in virtually any court case!

Small claims court — no lawyers, juries, or complex legal standards — is designed for simplicity. Nonetheless, it can be quite stressful for plaintiffs who are anxious to be paid money that they are rightfully owed. Below, you will find five highly effective tips that should help to simplify the process:


1. Show the Defendant You Mean Business.
Filing a small claims case allows you to avoid many expenses associated with civil court. Although bypassing the hassle and cost of court all together is clearly a superior option. Many times, communicating with the client clearly and firmly is enough to pressure them into making the payment that they owe you. Sending a well-written demand letter is an excellent way of achieving this. 


2. Know the Monetary Limits for Small Claims.
If taking the case to court is unavoidable, then understanding the rules of small claims is crucial. These guidelines can help you determine whether your case does indeed belong in small claims and not a superior court.


3. Take Company Record Keeping Seriously.
 Often, defendants claim that your services were not rendered as agreed upon beforehand. To better prevent this being a valid argument, keep meticulous company records– even a photographic record of your finished work, when possible.


4. Identify Potential Witnesses.
Anyone who may be able to testify on your behalf should be issued a subpoena in order to ensure that they appear in court. Remember that witnesses must be relevant to the case in question. However, your brother coming in to say that you are an honest person won’t help much; a former employee who helped you renovate the defendant’s kitchen probably will.

5. Practice Proper Courtroom Etiquette. Keep a general air of seriousness, dress well, speak formally, don’t interrupt anyone, refer to relevant parties with their last name, and refer to the judge as “your honor.” This article from South University offers a more in-depth guide to court etiquette, for those interested.

Is Taking Your Car Accident Case to Small Claims Court Right For You?

Posted on May 14, 2018

Small claims court may be the best way to solve your car accident claim.

Small claims court is an alternative dispute resolution for many small claims matters, including car accidents. If an insurance company fails to offer what you think is a fair settlement, small claims court may be a viable option for you as long as the amount you wish to recover is within your state’s dollar limit of small claims court. 

Is it hard to file a case in small claims court?

It is not difficult at all to file a small claims court case. You typically need to fill in a form from the Court Clerk (you may be able to obtain it online as well) and pay a small filing fee. If you win the case, the other driver may be required to pay the fee back. After that, you need to have court papers delivered to the person you are filing against by service of process. You can even hire a local constable or sheriff to do the service for you for a fee.

How to Win

Every car accident case addresses two things: liability (who caused the accident) and damages (what damages occurred as a result of the accident). To win a case you must prove liability and damages you have incurred. If you are able to prove a liability to the court but are unable to provide proof of damages, you will not be awarded anything. It is imperative that you have evidence prepared to prove both damages and liability.

You will need to testify and may be asked to call other people as witnesses if you know of anyone who saw the accident. If no other witnesses were present, you will need to be ready to show your version of how the accident happened, explaining in as much detail as possible. You will need to include parts of the vehicle which were damaged, where the impact occurred on the roadway and so on. If you have photographs, these will be helpful to your case.

What happens if you win?

Should you win, the other driver will have to pay the judgment. In most cases, if the driver had insurance, their insurance company will pay it. If the other driver does not have insurance, in some cases you may have trouble collecting the judgment and the court may have to help you collect it.

Have you been involved in an accident and wish to seek restitution? We can help.

Tips for Renting Out Your Own Home

Posted on Apr 9, 2018

Tips for Renting Out Your Own Home

Avoid Headaches and Maximize Financial Return with These Simple Tips!

Whether you plan on subletting or making your entire property available, renting out your home is a good way of covering mortgage costs while sometimes making a bit of profit to boot. It is ideal for people who own multiple properties or who are traveling but may be done in other circumstances, as well.

Renting does come with a few risks and downsides, however. As we have witnessed many times here at Ace Small Claims, financial disputes between tenants and landlords are not uncommon. Here are a few simple steps you should take before renting in order to avoid headaches.

Prepare meticulously. Try to anticipate any potential repair or maintenance complaints that a tenant might have and solve them before renting out your space. Once you have tenants, any repair issues that arise will need to be treated on an urgent timeline, which is always more expensive. Preemptively solving problems will also help foster tenant satisfaction, which is always a good thing. 

Vet your tenants. A bad tenant can be a nightmare; failing to pay rent, bothering neighbors, damaging your property, and eventually ending up fighting with you in small claims court. That is why we recommend thoroughly vetting all potential tenants through applications, background checks, interviews, credit checks, and personal references.

Establish clear expectations. From uniform payment schedules to a written renter’s policy, establishing a clear set of expectations will help you avoid problems with your tenant, while also offering you documentation that will prove invaluable in the event of a dispute. Should you end up suing your tenant in small claims court due to their disregard for a rule such as occupancy limits, for example, showing a rules agreement signed by the tenants themselves all but ensures your success in court.

Skip Tracing for Small Claims

Posted on Mar 13, 2018

Skip Tracing for Small Claims

Are you owed money? Is the person or party responsible for this debt making themselves impossible to contact or even locate? If you answered yes to both of these questions, then skip tracing services could be right for you. Here at Ace Small Claims, skip tracing is one of the many services we offer for individuals and businesses trying to collect money that rightfully belongs to them. Read on to learn more about skip tracing for small claims:

What is skip tracing? Skip tracing refers to the process of tracking down and contacting a person who is deliberately making themselves difficult to find. The term originates from the phrase ´to skip town,´ as this is precisely the strategy that many unscrupulous debtors use in an attempt to avoid making payments.

What strategies do skip tracers rely on? Skip tracers are experts in tracking down public records and making accurate extrapolations from that data. Should this prove unsuccessful, skip tracers may locate and then interview acquaintances of the person in question, in a process known as social engineering.

Is skip tracing permitted in my legal district? Skip tracing is legal across the US — however, specifical state and local regulations may dictate which methods may and may not be used. This is why hiring a profession is usually wiser than attempting to trace a skip on your own.

Why are skip tracers hired? In most cases, money is involved. Perhaps you have a small claims case against your skip and they are avoiding making a court appearance. (If they are smart, they will avoid service of process altogether, thus minimizing their liability in the case!) In other circumstances, people skip town after losing a small claims case in order to avoid making payments.

Want to learn more about skip tracing and other important small claims issues? Visit Ace Small Claims online today!