Cost of Suing Someone in Small Claims Court
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Cost of Small Claims Court Litigation ...
Cost of Small Claims Court Litigation
There is a common misconception that using small claims court is an easy, quick and cheap way of resolving a dispute. The reality is that it is not easy, nor quick, nor cheap.
If you would like an idea of how complicated and time consuming it is, try figure out the ‘rules of small claims court’ in your jurisdiction. The rules can usually be found in an Act with a title similar to the “Small Claims Rules” or “Small Claims Act”. Failing that, read the guides to small claims court which are often provided on the court’s website or the Attorney General’s website in your jurisdiction. Keep in mind these guides are only simplified explanations and it is the codified rules in the relevant Act that govern the process. The devil is always in the detail.
Due to the existing backlog of cases and the continued government budget cuts for the judiciary in most jurisdictions, you should expect to wait at least six months for your small claims case to come to trial. The wait is even longer in general court; which may be relevant since the cut-off for small claims in many jurisdictions is only several thousand dollars.
It is possible get a decent idea of what litigating a case is likely to cost. As you will see below this in part depends on how “cost” is defined.
To file a suit in small claims court, both the plaintiff and the defendant will need to pay a filing fee. The amount varies from about $15 to $200 depending on the jurisdiction as well as the dollar value being claimed. The plaintiff pays to file the statement of claim and the defendant pays to file the statement of defense.
For a decent attorney you should expect to pay at least $250 per hour and often more. Assuming a two hour consult, that is at least $500.
Time is money. Reading and understanding the rules and procedures, and completing all the forms correctly, often takes much longer than one might expect.
Time Off Work
In most instances it will be necessary to attend court during the work week, both to file the initial paperwork and for the trial, and possibly to attend a pre-trial hearing. This requires time off work on two or three days.
Total Cost of Small Claims Court
Based on the assumptions in the article and depending on the circumstances and the value a person places on their time, litigating a case in small claims court could cost anywhere from $100 to $2,000, if that person is self-represented. If an attorney is retained, it will probably cost at least $2,000 more since it is unlikely an attorney would accept a case for less given the responsibilities and liabilities.
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