Small Claims, Big Stakes: What is Small Claims Court?

"Small claims" divisions of local district, county or municipal courts have become just the ticket for those seeking truth, justice and replacement of those shrunken gray wool pants.

Think of small claims at "Plaintiffs-R-Us." It's user-friendly -- you'll get help filling out paperwork; filing fees average around $50.00, and best of all, your claim can usually total several thousand dollars or more.

OK, where's the courthouse?

Now that we're got your attention, back up briefly and ask two questions:

  1. Do I have a case? and
  2. If so, can I settle it?

One important question to ask is: have I suffered any damage as a result of the other person's action or lack of action? Without damages, no matter how strong the principal is or how aggravating the incident, there's no lawsuit.

Filing a case in small claims court, while streamlined, is not your only option. Before driving to the clerk's office, make a sincere effort to resolve the problem. You can, of course, call or visit your opponent to discuss the facts, or simply send what's known as a "demand letter" to the other party.

Next: How to do it