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How Do I File a Claim in Small Claims Court?


Question: How Do I File a Claim in Small Claims Court?
Small claims court is the place where you can take a case for small amounts of money without being required to have an attorney.

Investigate Small Claims Process in Your State
Before you can file a claim in small claims court, you will need to know the limit in your state. The easiest way to find this amount is to do an Internet search on "small claims limit." For example, Iowa small claims limit. If your claim is for more than the limit, you cannot use small claims court.

Meet with Clerk of the District Court
The small claims process is handled by a federal district court. A small claims action must be filed with the district court where the event occurred or where the defendant resides. If you are not sure where to file, contact the district court in your area. To find the nearest district court office, go to the U.S. Courts website and click on "District Court" then your zip code or city, state.

Information You Need for the Clerk of District Court
When you file a claim with the clerk, you will need:

  • State what you want from the defendant. Be specific; if you want money, state the amount and the reason it is owed; for example "$3,500 for chiropractic services rendered." If you want the defendant to vacate property, state the reason. You don't need to bring along your paperwork; that will be needed later when the case is heard.
  • The name and address of the person or company you are suing; if there are multiple defendants, you will need information on each. If the company is a business, you will need the legal type of that business and the legal name of the business, in addition to the d/b/a (fictitious name/trade name) of that business.
  • Your company name and address. including the same information about your company name and legal type. For example, "Artful Enterprises, a corporation."

Filing Process
You will be filing an Original Notice with the clerk. You can take the form with you and bring it back when it is complete, with the correct number of copies, and a check for the filing fee. You must pay the filing fee in full at the time you submit the Original Notice.

Notice to Defendant(s)
When the Original Notice has been received and filed, the Clerk will assign your case a number and a date for appearance will be determined. The Clerk mails a letter to each defendant stating the day and time for appearance.

Next, How to Prepare for Small Claims Court

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