Small claims courts are local courts set up to handle disputes involving relatively small amounts of money. They are quick and cheap. These are the kinds of courts you use if your mechanic charges you for nonexistent repairs or your former tenant refuses to pay owed rent. Before you take your case to such a court, it's advisable to gauge whether it's worth it. Here are four factors to help you make the decision:
The Value of the Dispute
This is one of the most essential considerations; pursuing a ten thousand dollar dispute is more worthwhile than suing for a thousand dollar deal. Also, you shouldn't just focus on the money alone; evaluate resources you are likely to commit to the lawsuit. For example, if you are running a business, determine if it makes economic sense to spend the time in court or at work.
Effect on Your Relationship
Decide whether you need further dealings with the defendant and whether the awards you expect is worth the potential effect on your relationship with him or her. For example, if your mechanic has been giving you good service all along, and you wish to continue dealing with him or her, then it may only make sense to sue him or her for relatively large disputes.
Probability of Collecting Judgment
You shouldn't go through all the hustle of suing someone only to learn that he or she doesn't have the means to pay your money. Therefore, find out whether your opponent can pay the damage you are seeking before taking the case to court. For example, if he or she has a steady job, a business or some assets, then you can go ahead with the suit because these may be sources of the award.
Availability of Records
Do you have all the records related to the dispute? This is important because you don't want the issue to end up as your word against his or hers; the judge isn't likely to award you judgment under such conditions. Records include different things, such as, signed contracts, emails mentioning the dispute, video or photographic records of damages. The more evidence you can put up, the higher your probability of winning the case. It doesn't make sense to start a case with low chances of success.
If you have decided to proceed with the case, then the next decision is whether to hire an attorney (if your state allows it). If the dispute is worth a lot of money or your defendant has hired legal counsel, then it makes good sense to get a lawyer too (such as one from Gomez May LLP).