What are small claims courts?
Get Legal Help Today
Secured with SHA-256 Encryption
UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021
It’s all about you. We want to help you make the right legal decisions.
We strive to help you make confident insurance and legal decisions. Finding trusted and reliable insurance quotes and legal advice should be easy. This doesn’t influence our content. Our opinions are our own.
Editorial Guidelines: We are a free online resource for anyone interested in learning more about legal topics and insurance. Our goal is to be an objective, third-party resource for everything legal and insurance related. We update our site regularly, and all content is reviewed by experts.
Small claims courts are designed to handle disputes between individuals, or an individual making a claim against a business or other entity. The amount of money involved is relatively “small” in terms of the cases courts usually decide. Most small claims courts do not have jury trials, but are simplified proceedings heard and decided by a judge.
There is usually a limit on the value that can be heard in small claims courts. The precise amount varies by state and municipality, so check with the court in your area. However, small claims courts typically can hear disputes that involve amounts ranging from several hundred dollars to $10,000 or more.
Many small claims cases are landlord-tenant disputes involving rent and security deposits. Others revolve around debts between individuals and between individuals and small businesses. In some states, small claims courts can also handle minor disputes between individuals and government agencies. Family and probate issues are not heard in small claims courts, but rather reserved for special family and estate courts.
In most states, you have to be 18 years of age or older to file a case in small claims court. To file a complaint, you will need to visit the court in your county or municipality to obtain a small claims form. Fill out the form, explaining your dispute in the greatest detail possible. After submitting the claims form, you will be required to pay a filing fee and receive a court date.
If you are considering filing in small claims court, review some of our articles on preparing a small claims case, or contact a small claims attorney. You can also refer to this list of links to access information specific to your state to learn about small claims dispute limits and jurisdiction.