Small claims courts typically handle disputes that are based on amounts of money or property valued up to a certain limit. In Cook County, and other counties in Illinois, the limit is $10,000. You may file your case in the Small Claims Court in Chicago if the parties have some association with Cook County. If you are filing for $3,000 or less, and representing yourself, you can sue in Pro Se Small Claims court. Cases commonly heard in this court involve breach of contract, property damage, personal injury, evictions and garnishment. You can hire an attorney, if you're suing for more than $3,000, and you can ask for a jury trial if you wish. Corporations must have an attorney.
Visit the Small Claims Court in Chicago to begin the process of filing a lawsuit. You may file here if the person you are suing resides here or has a business in the county, or if the subject of the case occurred here. The clerk of the court will give you a summons and a complaint form, which you complete with your name and address, the defendant's name and address, the amount of money you are requesting and a brief description of the case. You are the plaintiff and the other party is the defendant. Pay the fee, which includes a charge for service on the defendant. This varies by case. Write down the number that the Clerk assigns to your case for future reference.
Service on the Defendant
The court will serve copies of the summons and complaint on the defendant. This will happen by regular or certified mail if the party lives in the county. If not, service will be in person, by a sheriff or other authorized third party person.
Preparing Your Case
Gather evidence that supports your case, such as contracts and leases, pictures, recorded statements, and video. If there are witnesses, talk to them about attending the hearing to testify on your behalf. Qualified experts can be helpful too, like a mechanic who can testify about damage to your car after supposed repairs. The court can issue subpoenas for reluctant witnesses for a fee, if necessary. You can talk to an attorney if you need advice on how to present your cas.
The clerk will set a date for review of your case when you file your court forms. The judge will ask the defendant if he objects to your claim. If he does not, you can ask the judge to grant a default judgment. This means that you have won the case. You still have to explain why you are asking for the amount in your claim. If the defendant challenges your claim, the case will go to trial and the clerk will set a date. On that day, the judge will listen to both sides. You will be allowed to present your evidence and question your witnesses. At the end of the trial, the judge will enter a judgment. If you win the case, and the judge has granted a monetary award, the defendant must pay your court fees as well.