Do I need an attorney for a collections case if I want to be awarded court costs?

I will be going to small claims court soon to try and get a judgment on a promissory note. I do not have representation, and I will be handling the case myself. However, I was told by an attorney that I cannot be awarded court costs as part of the judgment unless an attorney handles the case. Is this true? I would really prefer to handle this myself and avoid having to pay an attorney.

Asked on September 15, 2011 under Bankruptcy Law, Florida

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

You should be able to be awarded the literal "court costs"--e.g. filing fees. These are, however, typically fairly small, especially in small claims court, so they probably don't make much difference either way. You should be able to check directly with the court to confirm this--courts particularly try to be helpful to pro se (representing themselves) litigants.

But you can't recover any legal fees if you represent yourself--you can only recover legal fees if paid to an attorney. So you cannot recover anything for the time and effort you have put into the matter or will put into the matter in the future. Of course, for a large enough note--say, $1,500 or more, it may be worth hiring a lawyer and potentially absorbing his/her cost to increase your chance of a successful outcome.


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