If you’re owed money for a job you performed or for unpaid rent, and that amount is under $10,000, you can take action by filing a small claims suit. These types of disputes are handled a little differently than a typical lawsuit, and they are heard in what’s called Small Claims Court. Since you’re not required to have a lawyer for small claims court and the process often involves a he-said, she-said type of disagreement, it’s not uncommon for someone with a strong case to make a mistake and tank their case. In today’s blog, we’re going to share five mistakes that are commonly made in small claims court so you have a better chance of winning your case.
Avoid These Small Claims Court Mistakes
Here’s a look at some of the mistakes and the reasons why these mistakes are made in small claims court in Illinois.
- Failing To Consider Your Options Before Court – We’re all for helping people get what they rightfully deserve in court, but there’s a chance you don’t need to get the court involved at all. Don’t rush into a small claims suit because you’re angry without exploring other options. You may be able to settle it behind closed doors or with the help of a mediator without involving the court system.
- Failing To Organize Your Case – You might think that it’s pretty clear that the contractor failed to uphold their end of the deal, but simply showing up to court and saying you didn’t like the work they performed may not cut it. Take time to collect evidence, take pictures, get copies of contracts or receipts, document dates and conversations and really organize your case. The judge can’t read your mind, so make your case as clear as possible.
- Not Hiring A Lawyer – You don’t need a lawyer to win in small claims court, but it certainly helps. We offer free case consultations where you can sit down with a lawyer and talk about your legal options, and we’ll be honest about whether or not you should move forward on your own or if you’ll want a professional by your side. As you can see, sometimes having us by your side can help you win your civil case without even needing to present your case!
- Underestimating Your Opponent – Your landlord or that contractor you hired may be a real piece of work, but that doesn’t mean you should assume they’ll also be terrible in court. If they are more prepared or if they have a lawyer on their side, they stand a good chance of winning, even if you disagree with their arguments. Make sure you or your lawyer out-prepare the other side.
- Not Documenting All Expenses – You’re going to civil court to collect a sum of money, and while you may have a clear case that you’re owed money, you also have to prove exactly how much you’re owed. The judge will have final say in the judgement, so make sure that all your receipts are clear and that you provide tangible evidence for any financial losses you’re claiming occurred as a result of the other party’s actions. Again, a lawyer can help with this part.
At the end of the day, you can pursue a small claims case on your own, but they can get complex and confusing in a hurry, and many people wish they would have hired a lawyer. Like we said above, take a little time out of your day to meet with us, go over the basics of your case and come to an understanding of your next best move. You’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain, so contact Brett and the experienced civil lawyers at Appelman Law today.