*The People’s Court, a reality television show, depicts civil litigants in a small claims court setting on a daily basis.
Many jurisdictions have small claim courts, minus the cameras, to afford individuals the opportunity to represent themselves in civil matters with damages of $10,000 or less (amounts may vary by jurisdiction).
Small claims courts are less formal, and the Rules of Civil Procedure and Rules of Evidence are a bit relaxed. Complaint forms may be available online by visiting the court’s website. Filing fees vary by state, and may depend on the amount of damages sought by the plaintiff.
In Illinois, small claims court filing fees range from $116 to $244. The $116 filing fee covers matters where the damages are less than $250. If the plaintiff’s damages are $250 or less, it may cost the plaintiff the amount of his/her damages to fully pursue the claim.
For example, if someone is owed money, small claims court may be a proper forum for the claim. The burden of proof is on the plaintiff to prove his or her damages. Any and all evidence should be brought to court on the day of trial. If the defendant fails to appear in court, after being served with notice, a default judgment may be entered by the court. If the plaintiff prevails, there is no guarantee that the defendant will pay the amount due. The cost of collection can become expensive, if the defendant fails to pay.
Whether or not to sue may depend on the amount of damages being sought. Research is important in determining if the plaintiff will be able to recover from the defendant.
Jameika Williams Mangum is an Attorney at the Mangum Law Firm, LLC in the Chicago area. The Mangum Law Firm, LLC is a general practice firm with a focus on Criminal, Civil, and Family Law. For more information, please visit www.themangumlawfirm.com.
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Jameika Williams Mangum
The Mangum Law Firm, LLC
1600 Golf Road, Suite 1200
Rolling Meadows, IL 60008
(847) 701-4LAW (4529) office
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