Small claims refers to the legal process that assists individuals in settling certain disagreements in a court with relaxed rules and a streamlined process. Small claims are designed to be manageable without an attorney.
If you are at or above the age of majority, 18 years of age or older, you may file a lawsuit in small claims court. If you are younger than the age of 18, a parent or guardian may file the suit on your behalf.
You can sue in small claims court if someone has broken a contract with you, taken your property and/or damaged your property. Examples of small claims are seeking remedy for the collection of a debt, for payment of medical bills, property damage you incurred or landlord claims for tenants' nonpayment of rent.
Each state has unique financial cutoff amounts for small claims damages. In Arkansas, you can sue for $5,000 or less in a small claims court.
There is a small claims division in each district court in state. You may file your claim in the county where the party you are suing, or defendant, resides. You may file a claim where the duty to perform a legal obligation was to take place or where the damage occurred. There is a length of time that you have to file a complaint. With oral contracts, rent issues or injury to goods, you have three years in which to file and, in the case of written agreements, five years.
Small Claims Suit Costs
The purpose of small claims court is to make smaller lawsuits affordable and achievable for everyone. For this reason, the cost of a small claims suit is minimal, and as the plaintiff, you may seek reimbursement from the defendant for filing fees and other court costs. The cost of filing a claim in Arkansas varies from county to county. Filing fees are at least $50 with a technology fee of $15, and fees for process service of your complaint to the defendant is an extra fee.
In order to file a claim, you must visit the clerk of the court where you wish to file for a form, or find the form at the Arkansas court website. You must fill out the form with case details, name and address of both parties and a simple description and amount of the property you wish recovered. You must also provide proof of defendant notification of the obligation to confirm complaint receipt and respond to the claim in an answer within 20 days.
When court day comes, you must bring relevant documentation to court. Documentation can be photographs relating to the incident, paperwork, receipts, letters, estimates or other documentation that supports your claim. Witnesses may need to respond to questions in court. Proper courtroom behavior is expected. Once you and the defendant present your sides of the case, the judge will deliberate and reach a decision. If you win your case, you may be awarded damages.
Note: Appeals may be filed within 30 days from the date of judgment in the circuit court where the small claims court is located.
Small claims court in Arkansas does not allow an attorney to take part in the filing of the small claims complaint, prosecution or defense. If the judge finds that an attorney has taken part in a case in the small claims division of any court in the district, the case will be immediately transferred to regular court. Visit Lawyers.com for more information about small claims court.