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Small Claims, Big Stakes: Try to Settle

Your demand letter should include:

  • a summary of the facts;
  • what you see as the damages, and
  • a clear request that the other party pay up by a certain date.

Be sure to include your contact information (phone/fax numbers, e-mail, etc.)

If you reach an agreement, write down terms of settlement. In exchange for paying you the money, the other party may ask you to sign a "release," giving up further claims against him.

If all this is too overwhelming, seek the help of a mediator or arbitrator. Toledo, Ohio, attorney Edward Snyder, a volunteer mediator, points out that many cases sent from the courtroom to a mediator do get resolved. You can usually find a mediator through the clerk's office of your local court.

Next: If you can't settle, it's on to thecourthouse.