Cost of Suing Someone in Small Claims Court
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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.

Filing Fees
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.

Your Time
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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Cost of Suing Someone in Small Claims Court Cost of Suing Someone in Small Claims Court Document Transcript

  • 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. Now to tackle the misconception that small claims court is cheap. Although it is difficult to determine the exact cost of going to court, since much depends on the actions and decisions of the other party and the judge, as well as the rules and procedures which vary by jurisdiction. 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. Some jurisdictions do not allow attorneys in small claims court. Even so, since failure to adhere to the court’s complicated procedures and technical rules could leave one at a disadvantage, to have the best chance of winning, consulting with an attorney beforehand would be prudent. 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. Cost of Small Claims Court Litigation Filing Fees Attorney Fees eQuibbly offers a simple, private and cost-effective way for individuals and companies to resolve disputes without the aggravation and expense of litigating in court. The whole process takes place online in a secure virtual room. Parties pay one low flat-fee for a former official trial Judge to hear their case and, within two weeks, hand down a legally-binding decision that is enforceable in a court of law in 148 countries. eQuibbly isn’t the only way to resolve disputes, but it is the best way. www.eQuibbly.com Connect with us Contact eQuibbly twitter.com/equibbly facebook.com/equibbly equibbly.wordpress.com
  • Time is money. Reading and understanding the rules and procedures, and complet- ing all the forms correctly, often takes much longer than one might expect. One example is the requirement in most jurisdictions that certain documents be notarized or signed in front of a person authorized to take oaths and affirmations—typically a lawyer, a court clerk, or a licensed Notary. Assuming you value your time at $40 per hour, disregarding all other out-of-pocket expenses, the cost of your time alone can be seen below: These costs above do not take in to consideration the additional time that will be required if the defendant does not show up in court on the scheduled day and later asks the court to re-open the case for trial. Nor if the defendant does show up but asks for an adjourn- ment to a later date. In some jurisdictions there also is a mandatory pre-trial hearing or mediation where the parties must meet with a representative of the court to discuss the case and determine whether the issue can be settled without a trial. 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–this could be anywhere from five hours to ten hours. Assuming an hourly wage of $40, that is between $200 and $400 of lost wages. When a lawsuit is filed, the defendant must be given formal notice in writing that they are being sued along with all the paperwork and supporting evidence. In most jurisdictions, the plaintiff will have to bear this cost which could be upwards of $30 to $100 for a courier or licensed process server. Based on the assumptions above 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. There are other possible costs. They are not typical, but circumstances may dictate they be incurred. For instance, since written witness statements are not usually acceptable in court, if the testimony of a witness is needed, he or she will have to attend the trial and their expenses and a small fee will have to be paid. The other party may also bring a ‘motion’ for one reason or another that may require another day in court at a later time. In some jurisdictions there is also the slight possibility that at the end of the trial the judge may grant the defendant an appeal which would mean another attendance in court for both parties. It should also be noted that small claims judgments are public information and could appear on your credit report, affecting your credit rating. UNDERTAKING TIME REQUIRED COST Filing Lawsuit (Travel to court to file suit and attend trial, waiting in line, filling out forms, signing forms in front of a Notary) 10 hours $400 Supporting Your Case (Collecting evidence, organizing witnesses, serving the defendant documents) 4 hours $160 Attorney Consultation 2 hours $80 Reviewing Your Claim Closer to Trial (Since the trial will be months after the incident and months after you filed the claim, you won’t remember the details) 3 hours $120 Attending Trial (There’s no specific time scheduled– you’re given a window of time during which you must wait in court for your turn to be heard) 4 hours $160 TOTAL: 23 hours $920 Sources: www.dca.ca.gov/publications/small_claims consumer-law.lawyers.com/US-Small-Claims-Court/Small-Claims-Court-In-Your-State.html www.jud.ct.gov/faq/smallclaims.html www.nycourts.gov/courthelp/Booklets/SmallClaimsHandbook.pdf © 2014 eQuibbly Your Time Time Off Work Formal Notices Total Cost of Small Claims Court Other Potential Costs www.eQuibbly.com