There are times when a civil dispute between parties may not require retaining an attorney. Usually this occurs when the amount of damages in dispute is too low to justify hiring the lawyer. However, that does not mean that you have to–or should–walk away from the issue. You may still be able to recover damages and receive some measure of justice for your claim in Small Claims Court.
What is a Small Claim?
In Massachusetts, you can file a Small Claims Action in any District Court. The “Small Claims Court” is simply a session in a District Court. Any suits brought to Small Claims Court are limited or capped at $7,000 in damages. So long as the damages that you are seeking are $7,000 or less, you can file the action in Small Claims Court.
The only exception to the monetary cap of $7,000 in damages is if the damages are due to a motor vehicle collision/automobile accident. If your damages are from an automobile accident then there is no cap on the amount of damages you can seek. For example, if someone hits your $100,000 Mercedes then you can actually sue them for the damages in Small Claims Court.
Again, you can bring an action in Small Claims Court for any action up to $7,000.00, including personal injury, dog bites, property disputes, etc.; however, if your case is from an automobile accident then the cap does not apply.
Filing Fees for Small Claims Complaints
One of the advantages for filing a Small Claims Action instead of a District Court or Superior Court action includes the reduced cost to file in Small Claims Court. While filing a legal claim in any court is never free, Small Claims Court fees are usually lower than other courts or sessions.
- The filing fee for small claims of $500 and under is $40.
- The filing fee for claims of $501 to $2000 is $50.
- The filing fee for claims of $2001 to $5000 is $100.
- The filing fee for claims of $5001 to $7000 is $150.
- The filing fee for claims of property damage of more than $7000 arising from an automobile accident is $150.
Another reason to file a case in Small Claims Court is that suits tend to move through the system faster than in other courts. You will probably get a trial date or hearing date much sooner than is typical as Small Claims Actions, with their lower stakes, are not often prolonged affairs. This can be a huge benefit for those concerned that a claim or trial will take up too much of their time or energy.
Weighing Your Options
It is important to exercise caution when selecting which court you choose to file in as there are disadvantages to filing a case in Small Claims Court. Some of those disadvantages include the lack of or limited access to what’s called discovery (exchanging information with the defendant/other side) and also the inability to take depositions of parties or witnesses. This is part of the reason that Small Claims Actions move through the legal system faster than larger claims, but it can make proving your case much harder.
Please contact the attorneys at the law offices of Mazow | McCullough, PC with any questions regarding where to file your case. We can help you determine if your claim belongs in Small Claims Court or if it is potentially much larger than that and can help you file in whatever court you decide. Call us today for a free consultation.