When you're ready to file your small claims case, bring all the information and papers concerning your claim with you to the appropriate county.
The first step in filing a small claims lawsuit is obtaining and filling out the necessary forms consisting of a statement of claim and a notice.
Statement of Claim
The clerk, at your request, will assist you in preparing the claim form and any other documents that you may be required to file to start the lawsuit. On the claim form, you need to provide information in a clear and concise way.
The statement of claim form will tell the other party why you're suing. The form requests:
- Your name and address
- The name and address of the party you're suing
- The amount you're claiming in the suit
- Reasons why the other party owes you money
At the time you file the claim form, you must have the proper name and address of the party you're suing. If the claim is based upon a written document, you need to attach copies of the document to the claim form.
Where to File
The next step is to actually file your forms. Small claims cases should be filed with the clerk of the district court in the appropriate county. You should file your claim in the county where:
- The defendant lives
- The dispute or event occurred
If the plaintiff doesn't file the lawsuit in the right county, the defendant could request the court to move the trial to one of the appropriate counties. If you have any problem deciding which county is appropriate, contact the clerk's office for assistance.
At the time you file your forms, you'll need to pay your filing fees. The fees vary from county to county and are dependent on the amount claimed in your suit. The clerk of the court in your county can tell you the amount.
The costs for filing a small claims action include the filing fee as well as a service fee for summoning each party to court. If a final judgment is entered in your favor as a result of your lawsuit, these costs may be added to the total amount of your judgment.
Service of Process
Once the statement of claim has been completed and filed with the clerk of court, the defendant must receive copies of the statement of claim and the notice form. This is called service of process, and it gives the defendant adequate notice of being sued. In an Idaho small claims case, there're four general ways to provide the opposing party with these forms. Service of process may be done by:
- Certified mail
- A sheriff or marshal
- A private process server
- Anyone not a party to the case and at least 18 years old
You need to complete service of process within 30 days after you file your claim. If not, many courts will dismiss the claim. However, you can refile the claim if it's dismissed. Proof of service must be filed with the court prior to the hearing.
The defendant will receive instructions on how to respond to the claim. He must file an answer with the court within 20 days. If not, the court may award a default judgment to you after a default hearing. You'll still need to be prepared to show that your claim is valid.
Questions for Your Attorney
- What's "service" and how's it done?
- Can an attorney assist me with filling out my claim forms?
- Should I file my claim in the county I live, in the county where the claim took place or in the county where the defendant lives?