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How to Handle Your Own Small Claim

There are many situations where you have a dispute, and you think you need an attorney, but you really don’t.  If you have a Small Claim matter, you can handle it yourself in Small Claims Court. In Pennsylvania, they’re called Municipal District Courts.

Municipal District Courts are located in every County and there are many of them in each County.  Their damages are limited to $8,000 – $12,000 and this amount varies from County to County.

Why would you consider going to Small Claims Court?

  1. You Don’t Need An Attorney
  2. It’s Cheaper – Usually the filing fee is about $100, and you get it back if you prevail.
  3. It’s Faster – Disputes will be handled quickly.  Usually the court schedules a hearing within 4-5 weeks of you filing your complaint. (In Common Peas Court, it can take up to 9 months to a year.)

What Kind of Dispute Should You Consider for Small Claims Court?

  • Contract Disputes – Breach of Contract – People owe you money
  • Landlord Tenant Disputes
  • Motor Vehicle Property Damage Disputes

Procedure – What Do You Do?

  • Pick the District Court closest to where the issue arose and close to you and the defendant.
  • Go to the District Court and get the complaint form.  Fill it out with the amount of the damages. In the complaint, be specific about the basis of the claim.
    • Bring a check, so you can pay the filing fee and service fee after the complaint is filed. It is usually about $100.
    • You will need to have the defendant’s address to complete the complaint. The defendant cannot be served, if you do not provide the defendant’s address to the court. The Court will mail your complaint to the defendant and issue a hearing date. (The hearing date may change.)
  • At the hearing, bring whatever documents you need to prove your case such as contracts, photographs, and any witnesses you think may be helpful in proving your case.
  • Your case will be one of may cases listed for a hearing that day. You may have to wait for your case to be heard, especially if it is Philadelphia County.
  • At the hearing, you will testify as to what happened and submit your evidence and witnesses to the court.
  • After the hearing, the Judge will make his/her decision and send his decision in the mail. Judges rarely make a decision from the bench on the date of the hearing.
  • If the decision is in your favor, you can execute on the judgment if it is not appealed by the other party.

In summary, Small Claims Court is a good way to go if you want to resolve your dispute quickly and economically.

CAR ACCIDENT PROPERTY DAMAGE CLAIMS

If you were involved in a car accident and you were not hurt, but you have a property damage claim, you may have property damage insurance under your own policy, or the person who hit you may have property damage insurance.  In that situation, you can submit your claims to your insurance company or the at-fault person’s insurance company, and the insurance company may pay your claim. If there is no insurance coverage, then you will have to file a lawsuit in Small Claims Court.

Author 

John Fox has been a practicing AV Preeminent rated personal injury Lawyer since 1980. John Fox's litigation and trial experience encompasses trucking accidents with catastrophic injuries; automobile accidents; premises liability lawsuits; tanker truck accidents; environmental claims, national fraternity personal injury cases, medical malpractice, and business dispute litigation.