Small Claims Courts handle civil cases in informal hearings that are ruled by judges or hearing officers. Small claims cases usually involve disagreements over money, with a maximum claim that varies depending on your state. Types of cases that might be heard in a Small Claims Court include personal injury, property damage, contract disputes and money debts. Small claims forms vary with each jurisdiction, but most jurisdictions have the same basic forms.
This form might be called a Complaint Affidavit in some courts, but the form serves the same function. The Plaintiff must fill out this form and file it with the Small Claims Court in order to start a small claims case against another person. The form includes fields for the Plaintiff's and Defendant's names and addresses. The rest of the form is designated for explaining the claim. The Plaintiff should include the amount of money that is disputed in the claim and then provide a brief statement about the claim and why money is owed.
Answer to Complaint/Counterclaim
After the Plaintiff has filed a Small Claims Affidavit against a Defendant, the Defendant will be served with the complaint either in person by a process server or through the mail. The Defendant must then file an Answer to the Complaint with the court. The amount of time he has to answer varies with each jurisdiction, but is usually about 20 days. The Answer can be delivered to the court personally or mailed in. Failure to file an Answer can result in a judgment against the Defendant. Your Answer will either claim that you do not owe any part of the claim, that you owe only part of the claim or you admit that you owe what is claimed. You should provide reasons why you don't owe or owe only part of the claim. You also have the opportunity to file a Counterclaim against the Plaintiff if you feel that the Plaintiff owes you money for any reason. This form may also need to be accompanied by an Affidavit of Mailing that states that you mailed the Answer through certified mail.
Affadavit of Identification
The Plaintiff and Defendant should fill out this form in which they agree that they are the persons in question in the case. You will simply sign the form and fill in your address to identify yourself as the person who is indicated in the court documents.
Request for Removal
Once a small claim is filed against a Defendant, she has the right to request that the case be removed to the General Civil Division of the Court or the higher District Court, where a more formal trial with a jury can be conducted. A judgment given in small claims court cannot be contested, but the Defendant will have the opportunity to file an appeal on a judgment given in a formal case.
After the case has been heard, the judge or hearing officer will give his judgment on the case. He may decide that the Defendant owes nothing, owes the full amount or owes part of the claim. The judge or other court officer will then fill out a Judgment form outlining his ruling on the case. He may grant the Defendant the ability to pay the Judgment in installments or order that the amount be paid in full by a deadline. He may also rule that the Judgment amount be able to earn interest if payment to the Plaintiff is delayed.