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How to Sue in Small Claims Court

If you’re having trouble collecting money from someone, consider using the court system.


  • Step 1: Fill out the proper form Fill out the proper form. Forms vary from state by state, so inquire at your local court.
  • Step 2: Wait on the defendant’s response Wait on the defendant’s response. The defendant is the person you’re suing, and they may have up to 30 days to respond.
  • Step 3: Anticipate a response Anticipate a response. You, the plaintiff, may receive payment from the defendant and can fill out a dismissal form to end the proceedings – but if not, forge ahead.
  • Step 4: Prepare your case Prepare your case. Gather your information and evidence.
  • Step 5: Practice what you'll say Practice what you'll say. Clearly and concisely, state what the problem is and how much you are requesting, including any court costs.
  • Step 6: Brush up on court etiquette Brush up on court etiquette. Remember to address the judge as "your honor," dress appropriately, and stand when you present your case - and don't address the defendant directly.
  • Step 7: Be confident Be confident. You can now present your case in the best way possible.
  • TIP: In small claims court, you’re only awarded money. So if you need help with other matters, ask the clerk to point you to the right court.
  • Step 8: Be tenacious Be tenacious. If the defendant doesn’t pay within the allotted time period, you may need a lawyer’s assistance – the court will not actually collect any money owed you.
  • FACT: Did you know? In 2002, New Yorker Caesar Barber filed a lawsuit against several fast food restaurants, blaming them for causing his obesity. The lawsuit never made it to court.

You Will Need

  • Court forms
  • Information and evidence
  • Preparation skills
  • Knowledge of court etiquette
  • Confidence
  • Tenacity

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