You are not actually ready to file a small claims suit until you have first determined where you will make the claim. In most states, you cannot file a claim against someone who does not live or own property in that state. You must decide if you will file in the county and state that the defendant lives in or if you will file where they own other property or work. You must be confident that the district court you wish to file with has jurisdiction over the defendant.
Once you have made the decision as to which court you will file with, you will then need to fill out the small claims forms. The Court Clerk in the area you have chosen will be able to provide you with these forms. They will also let you know how many copies you will need to provide with your suit.
As you fill out the small claims forms, you will need to have some very specific information. The full name of the defendant and their street address will be needed as well as their telephone number. In a case where you are making a claim against a business, you will need the full legal name of the business and its owner or agent. You can often get this kind of information from the U.S. Department of Commerce.
You will need to know the exact amount of money you are filing for when you fill out your claim forms. If you have a figure in mind, be ready to list out how you have arrived at that amount. You cannot simply file for the maximum small claims limit without an accounting of the calculation.
When you file, you must pay the filing fee. In most states the fee is around $40. Some states use a graduated filing fee that costs more for higher monetary claims than it does for lesser claim values. If you win the case, your cost of filing with the small claims court will be added onto the judgment amount against the defendant.
If you have to hire the services of a law officer to deliver the claim to the defendant, you will be required to pay for that service. Many people choose to have the forms sent to the defendant via registered mail with a return receipt for proof of delivery.
Once you have filed your claim, you will need to prepare for your day in court. You will want to make sure you have all the documents, witnesses and evidence you need to prove your case as decisively as possible. Keep all this information together and ready for court.
You will be informed by the Clerk’s Office when your court date is set. You will need to show up and be ready to speak to the judge and tell your side of the story. Be sure you have revisited your evidence again very close to court date so as to remind yourself of the details of your case.