Small Claims Guide For California
In California, we have a Small Claims Court. The Small Claims Court handles Civil cases in which the plaintiff/complainant is asking for $10,000.00 or less. If you are suing then you are the plaintiff. If you are being sued then you are the defendant. Both can be referred to as claimants
Small Claims Court Limit of $10,000 is Subject to Certain Restrictions.If you are an individual but are suing for bodily injuries as a result of a car accident and the person you are suing has car insurance that includes a "duty to defend," the limit in small claims court is $7,500. If you are an individual who owns a business (i.e. sole proprietor) and do business under a fictitious business name, you are considered to be an "individual" in Small Claims Court. For example, if you are a plumber doing business as ABC Plumbing and want to sue a customer who has not paid you, you can file a claim for up to $10,000. If your business is a corporation, partnership or anything other than a sole proprietorship, your maximum claim amount is $5,000. IMPORTANT NOTE: A claimant can't file more than two small claims court actions for more than $2,500 anywhere in this state during any calendar year. For example, if you file a claim for $3,000 in February of one year, and another claim for $4,000 in the following month, you can't file another claim for more than $2,500.00 in any small claims court until January 1 of the next calendar year. However, you can still file as many claims as you wish for $2,500 or less. WARNING: THERE ARE ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES TO PURSUING A MATTER IN SMALL CLAIMS COURT AND YOU SHOULD TALK TO A LAWYER TO FIND OUT WHAT IS BEST FOR YOU GIVEN YOUR SITUATION.
Small Claims Court is Designed to be Simple, Quick, and Cost EffectiveIn Small Claims Court there are, no lawyers, no rules of evidence, no juries. A judge or judge pro tem hears your case. You don't need to be a United States citizen to file or defend a case in Small Claims Court. Some examples of problems that can be handled in Small Claims Court are, you have been involved in minor traffic accident have property damage and perhaps some minor injuries and the person responsible will not pay you for repairs and your injuries, a landlord will not return your security deposit, your tenant damaged your property and the security deposit will not cover the full costs of repair, you loaned someone money and they will not pay back. Basically you can sue for any "small claims civil matter" negligence, breach of contract and other such matters. In California to sue in Small Claims Court you must be at least 18 years old or legally emancipated. Mentally competent to file or defend a case in Small Claims Court. Almost anyone can sue or be sued in Small Claims Court. You can sue another person or a business or a business can sue a person or another business However, you cannot bring a case against a Federal Agency in Small Claims Court. As well, insurance companies and collection agencies cannot sue in Small Claims Court for their clients.
Claims must Be Filed Within a Set Time Limit or Statute of LimitationsIf you fail to file a timely action you will be forever barred from pursuing your claim. Here are some examples of various statutes of limitations: Injury to a person. The defendant hurts you with or without intending to hurt you. For example, personal injury accidents, wrongful death, assault, battery, intentional or negligent infliction of emotional distress, wrongful act, or negligent act, etc. California Code of Civil Procedure section 335.1. 2 years from the date of injury Damage to property. The defendant damages or destroys your property either with or without intending to damage it. For example, taking your personal property (conversion), crashing your vehicle, going onto your property without permission (trespass), fraud, nuisance, etc. California Code of Civil Procedure section 338. Also for breach of sale of goods, see Californa Commercial Code section 2725. 3 years from the date the property was damaged Libel or slander. The defendant defames you in print, writing, or pictures (libel) or verbally (slander). California Code of Civil Procedure section 340 ( c ) ). 1 year from the date of injury Oral contracts. Contracts that you and the defendant did not write down. California Code of Civil Procedure section 339. (Most oral contracts will have some sort of writing, e.g., a receipt, a canceled check, etc. This writing may be proof that you had an oral contract.) 2 years from the date the contract was broken Contracts in writing. California Code of Civil Procedure section 337. 4 years from the date the contract was broken Known (apparent) problems (called "patent defects") in real property improvement design, survey, construction, etc., and resulting injury to property or person. California Code of Civil Procedure section 337.1. These usually are lawsuits against architects, contractors, or builders. 4 years from the date the construction was mostly finished Unknown (not apparent) problems (called "latent" defects) in real property improvement design, survey, construction which cause damage to real estate or personal property. California Code of Civil Procedure, Section 337.15. These usually are lawsuits against architects, contractors or builders. 10 years from the date construction was mostly finished Personal property left at a hotel, hospital, rest home, sanitarium, boarding house, lodging house, or apartment, etc. California Code of Civil Procedure zection 341a. 90 days after departing from premises Against a health-care provider (medical malpractice). 1 year from the date plaintiff knows or should have known about the injury, or 3 years from the date of the injury whichever is the earlier date. California Code of Civil Procedure section 340.5. Note: If you are going to sue a health-care provider you MUST give them 90 days' notice before filing. California Code of Civil Procedure section 364. 1 year (In some cases, 3 years. Read the law). Against a bank. If a bank paid on a check that was signed without authorization or where the signature was forged. California Code of Civil Procedure, Section 340. 1 year from the date the bank paid out the funds. Against government agencies or offices. These claims require that you file a special claim (called an "administrative claim") with the government office or agency before you file in court. You have to use the government's form to file the claim. Personal property and personal injury/death cases: You must file your administrative claim within 6 months of the date of the injury. California Government Code section 911.2 Breach of contract and real property damage cases: You must file your administrative claim within 1 year of the date the contract was broken or the real property damaged. See the reference to claims relating to "any other cause of action" under California Government Code Code section 911.2. After you file your claim, the government has 45 days to respond. Government Code section 912.4. If the government agency, denies your claim during the 45 days, you have 6 months to file in court from date the denial was mailed or personally delivered to you. Government Code sections 912.4, 912.6. If the government agency does not respond to your claim during the 45 days, you have 2 years from the date the incident occurred to file in court. Government Code section 945.6 (a)(2). CONSULT WITH AN ATTORNEY TO MAKE SURE YOU FILE YOUR CLAIM AND FILE YOUR LAWSUIT BEFORE THE DEADLINE. ALSO LAWS CHANGE FREQUENTLY AND THE ABOVE INFORMATION MAY CHANGE, SUCH CHANGES COULD SUBSTANTIALLY AFFECT YOUR RIGHTS. BE SURE TO LEARN WHAT IS MOST CURRENT FOR YOUR CLAIM