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Filing a counterclaim in small claims court

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If you are being sued in small claims court, you have the right to file a counterclaim against the plaintiff. This is the law in every state. A counterclaim gives the judge the position to decide claims presented by both parties against each other one at a time. If you think that you may want to file a counterclaim against the individuals who are taking you to court, the following steps will help you along in the process:

• Check your state laws. Check your state laws regarding counterclaims. This information can be obtained on the court’s website or at the county clerk’s office. Some states require that the defendant respond to or answer a claim. At this time, they may file a counterclaim. In other states, a defendant simply has to follow the same procedure for filing a regular claim.
• Consult an attorney. Many people go to small claims court without consulting an attorney. This isn’t the smartest idea. An attorney can help you prepare your case and create a sound defensive strategy for you. In some states, you may even be allowed to have an attorney represent you in court.

• Develop evidence. The key to winning a small claims counterclaim case is to convince the judge that your version of the facts is the truth. Back up your oral defense with physical evidence and eyewitnesses. Gather any and all paper evidence that substantiates your claim such as written contracts, canceled checks, photographs or e-mails.

• File the proper forms. Make sure that you file the proper forms regarding a counterclaim. In most states, you will receive a form that must be returned to the court along with your notice to appear. On this form, you can accurately state your counterclaim against the plaintiff. Other states have specific counterclaim forms that you will have to fill out separately.
• Keep an eye on the timeline. Watch your timeline for the case because you must file the counterclaim within a certain number of days after being served or before the hearing commences. If you require more time to prepare your case, you can ask for a new court date when you file your counterclaim.

• Practice makes perfect. Practice your case with friends and family before you go to court. You will be asked to make a clear and logical presentation as to why your counterclaim is valid. By practicing this before hand, you can ease your nerves, develop a concise explanation and fix any holes you may have in your claim.

Remember that the counterclaim must be related somehow to the same incident as the original claim. Counterclaims are often filed in order to provoke a settlement or to reduce the amount of the original claim filed by the plaintiff. If the counterclaim is more than the state’s legal limit for small claims, then it must be made in a regular court of law. In this case, most states will simply move the entire trial to a higher court.

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