Do I need a lawyer to take someone to small claims?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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Do I need a lawyer to take someone to small claims?

A woman ran a red light and hit the passenger side of my vehicle. My friend, a passenger, got injured. I have another driver who witnessed the accident and was nice enough to stop and give me her info. I took that info, including insurance which is under her and her husband. I have no injuries and took pictures of both cars and friends injuries. When I approached the driver that hit me she stated she

Asked on February 9, 2017 under Accident Law, Illinois


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

Legally, you do not need an attorney; you are allowed to be your own lawyer ("pro se"). Obviously, an attorney will help: a lawyer knows the procedures, knows the law, knows how to present a case, may well know the judge. A lawyer will increase your odds of winning. But a lawyer will also cost, generally, between $750 and $1,500 in my experience for a case like this, which will obviously reduce what you take home if you win (you have to pay your own legal fees in these types of cases). So are you confident of your ability to learn a few rules of court (small claims court is simplified compared to "regular" court), follow instructions, tell your story well, question the other side and any witnesses--and do that in front of a judge and an audience? If you believe you can do that yourself, then you are better off representing yourself "pro se" in court, to save on legal fees. If you don't feel you can do these things--or just don't want to--then retain an attorney.
If you do choose to represent yourself, you seem to have what you need. Bear in mind that the witnesses must *appear* in court on the trial date--if they won't agree to do so voluntarily, you will need to subpoena them to show up and testify (the clerk of the court can direct you to the forms and instructions to do this). Print out any photos and have color hardcopy--you generally cannot show photos on your phone in court.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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