Four Characteristics Of A Small Claims Courts

Small claims courts have been set up to handle minor disputes between individuals or individuals and businesses. Having special courts for these cases ensures that the cases do not clog up the other courts that handle more serious issues. There are some characteristics of small claims courts that set them apart from the rest. Here are a few examples of these unique features:

Jury Trial is Not Common

In almost every case brought before a small claims court, it's the judge who settles the dispute because juries are seldom used in these courts  On one side, this is good because the judge isn't likely to be influenced by emotions like jurors, and he or she understands the law well enough to make an impartial decision. On the other hand, the likelihood of getting a juror to agree with you is higher (after all there are at least six individuals) than getting the judge on your side. You lose this advantage when you go to a small claims court. In jurisdictions that allow jury trial, you have to make a formal request in advance.

 Money Is the Only Possible Award

Don't expect any kind of redress apart from monetary awards or compensation if you win a case in a small claims court. For example, if one of your neighbors has littered your swimming pool with trash, then you shouldn't expect the judge to order them to clean up the pool. What the judge may do, if you win the case, is to order him or her to pay you for the cost of cleaning your swimming pool.

There Is a Limit to the Amount for Which You Can Sue

There is a limit on the value of cases that you can take to a small claims court. What if your claim is only a few dollars over the limit, can you ask the court to award you the limit and ignore the rest? The answer is no; the court has to stick to this limit for all the cases it handles. For example, if you claim is worth $6,000, and the limit is $5,000, you can't ask the court to ignore the $1,000 difference and just award you $5,000 in case you win.

You Are Responsible For Most Things

In a small claims court, you (the plaintiff) are responsible for most things that take place in court. For example, it's your responsibility to file your case in the correct jurisdiction, gather pieces of evidence and witnesses, and even start your case. It can be very confusing if you haven't handled similar cases in the past.

Your state may grant you the right to be represented by a lawyer; it's up to you to decide whether you need one. It's a good idea to consult a lawyer if your opponent has one, is a business entity or the amount of money involved is relatively large. For more information, visit sites like