5 Mistakes to Avoid In Small Claims Court

March 11, 2023 / 3:21 pm

Every year, thousands of Pennsylvania residents either file a complaint or defend themselves in Small Claims Court. Often called a Justice of the Peace, Small Claims Courts in Pennsylvania are disigned to handle small claims, under $12,000 in a fast and cost effective manner. The filing fees are low and court hearings are usually scheduled in 60 days which means that you have swift access to justice. In Bucks County Pennsylvania, there are 19 different small claims courts that govern the every day leagle needs of their communities.

While it is easy to get to small claims court, it is also easy to make a mess of your case. With a little preparation though you can successfully have your day in court.

Mistake 1 - Failing to Consider All of Your Options. It's easy to get a case into Small Claims Court. Simply go to the Court, obtain a balnk Complaint form, complete it and pay your filing fee. However, the final decision is easily appealable to the Court of Common Pleas. If that happens, you have to start all over again and your judgment is thrown out. So consider if you should file in Small Claims Court or if you should just file from the start in the Court of Common Pleas. Consider an out of court settlement. Consider mediation.

Mistake 2 - Failing to Organize Your Case - Many people think that they can just show up to court with a bunch of documents and the Judge will figure it out. That's not their job. Typically several cases are scheduled at the same time. The Court is interested in moving cases quickly. The judge is not there to read your documents and to figure your problem out. Make it easy for the judge to rule in your favor. make copies of the documents for all the parties to have. Highlight the important words or clauses in your documents. Organize your documents or pictures to tell a story and know what order you will present them in. The more organized you are the better the chances that you will win.

Mistake 3 - Not hiring an attorney. Attorneys can be expensive. It can also be expensive to lose your case. If you decide to go it alone and the opposing party has an attorney you are not only going to be surprised when you get to court, your also increasing the chances that you are going to lose. A good attorney knows how to keep expenses down when going to small claims court and will give you an advantage.

Mistake 4 - Underestimating Your Opponet - You need to be prepared. Come with as much evidence, organized in the best way possible. Don't take this hearing for granted. Showing the judge and your opponet that you have the facts to back your story up and are ready for anything gives you an advantage and reduces the liklihood of an appeal. Like the Boy Scout motto - Be Prepared!

Mistake 5 - Document all of your expenses - bring the receipts showing what your expenses were. Have the pictures showing the damage or lack thereof. Its your job to document every aspect of your case. If you paid for a repair, bring the invoice showing the amount of the bill and that it was paid. Bring the cancelled check showing that you paid and that the money came out of your account. Have a before and after picture of the repair. Its your job to establish the facts of your claim or defense. Pictures are cheap. Take lots.