Sometimes the cost of hiring a lawyer is more than the amount of money that is owed to you. Small claims court can be a quick and inexpensive way to collect money that would otherwise go unpaid. The court procedures are informal, not intimidating. And a judge, instead of a jury, usually decides the case.
Who Can Sue and Be Sued?
Any individual, business or corporation may bring a small claims suit for the recovery of money when the amount requested is $4,500 or less. Even if you have a claim for a slightly greater amount, you may choose to voluntarily limit it to $4,500 to take advantage of the small claims court's streamlined procedure. Attorneys are allowed, but not required. More
Where Do I File a Small Claims Case?
You should file a small claims case in the District Court in the county where the party being sued (the "defendant") lives or, in the case of a traffic accident, in the district court division where the accident occurred. If your case involves a landlord-tenant dispute, you can bring the case where the home or apartment is located. The clerk of the court should be able to determine whether the address is within the boundaries of that court. More
Dispute Resolution Services
Before filing a small claims case, the parties are encouraged to try to resolve their differences. Free or low-cost services may be available through the court or local legal clinics. For more information, contact your local court. More
Witnesses at a Small Claims Trial
While you're getting ready for a trial in the Maine small claims court, make sure you don't focus only on things like bills, leases and canceled checks. Witnesses at small claims court can help persuade a judge that you should win the case. More
What Happens at Trial?
The trial in small claims court is between you and the defendant. Both parties must prepare their cases and bring those witnesses or other evidence (such as documents, records, photographs or drawings) to court to support their claims or defenses. Witnesses must have personal knowledge of the facts about which they are asked to testify. Documents, records, photographs and drawings must be identified and explained by a person with personal knowledge of them.
If the defendant does not appear at trial, you will be granted a "default" judgment for the amount of your claim, plus your filing fee and service costs. If you fail to appear at trial, the judge will dismiss your claim. More
How Do I Collect the Judgment?
If the court enters a judgment against either party, it is that party's duty to pay without delay. The small claims court does not collect the judgment for you. But you can ask the court to order the debtor to come to a "disclosure hearing" to tell you about his assets and income.
The court can also order the debtor to make payments on the debt. If the debtor doesn't live up to his payment arrangements, you can then start trying to collect the judgment by garnishing wages or bank accounts, or trying to locate his personal property. More
How Do I Appeal a Judgment Against Me?
Any appeal must be filed to the Superior Court within 30 days of the time the judgment is entered. Detailed instructions for filing a small claims appeal are available from the clerk of the court. There is an appeal filing fee of $120. More
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