How to File Small Claims in West Virginia

West Virginia Small Claims Court allows residents to file lawsuits for amounts of $5,000 or less. The civil suit process is designed to provide all parties with a way to settle a financial disagreement quickly. In addition to providing a fast and affordable way to get legal relief, the West Virginia [civil court]( system makes filing a claim easy for those who are unable to afford legal assistance. While the civil court staff cannot provide legal advice, they can answer basic questions and provide the petitioner with all necessary forms.

File your lawsuit suit based on location. Civil suits involving property must be filed in the county where the property is located. Personal suits with a local defendant must be filed where the defendant is located, unless the defendant is another state or country, in which case the suit may be filed at the plaintiffs' location.

Read More: How to File a Civil Complaint in Court

File a claim for the judgment amount you're seeking. Claims of less than $300 must be filed in Magistrate Court and claims of $300 to $2,500 can be filed in either Magistrate or Circuit Court. Claims for more than $2,500 are to be filed in Circuit Court. Claim forms can be found at the Circuit and Magistrate courts. The clerk of court can provide the correct forms once the petitioner’s unique situation has been explained. Once the forms are completed, they are filed for a fee that varies by county.

Notify the defendant of the suit. Service of process, or delivery of a copy of the complaint, can be made by any disinterested third party, although the sheriff's office provides the most common form of service. If you have sheriff's personnel deliver the forms, you must take a copy of the filed suit to the sheriff’s office and pay a service fee. The sheriff’s office will then deliver the forms to the defendant and have the defendant sign a certificate of delivery, which is then filed with the clerk’s office.

Prepare for the hearing. Both parties will be notified of the hearing date and, during the hearing, both sides will have a chance to present their case. It's possible to request a trial by jury, but most small claims trials are decided by a judge. During trial, both parties must present the judge with any documents supporting their position and witnesses will be allowed to give testimony. The judge will make her judgment and both parties will have 20 days to appeal the decision by asking for a new trial in Circuit Court.

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