Small claims court: Rules and limits by state
Small claims court allows individuals to sue others, usually for a few thousand dollars. Every state has their own rules and procedures to file a lawsuit in small claims court.
Dollar limit. Every state has a limit to how much you can sue for in small claims court. However, if your case is related to an eviction or a security deposit, the maximum is usually higher.
Responding to a lawsuit. When someone sues you, they are required to notify you with a summons and complaint. A summons lists the scheduled court date, while a complaint includes why the other party is suing you.
After being served with a lawsuit, the defendant has a specific number of days to provide a written notice that they intend to go to court. Otherwise, the other party may enter a default judgment against the defendant. This means the judge will automatically rule in the other party's favor.
You probably won't need a lawyer. Some state's small claims courts prohibit the use of an attorney, since this branch of the court was intended to help the average person file a lawsuit. Even if you are permitted to have a lawyer represent you, potential attorney fees typically outweigh the amount you're attempting to recover.
If you do feel as though you need extra legal help, you can hire a lawyer to review the case and give you advice before your court date. An attorney can initiate the lawsuit by filing paperwork with the court and serving the other party with a summons and complaint.
|Dollar limit||Time to answer complaint||Are lawyers allowed?|
|Arizona||3500||20 days||Yes, with the other parties consent|
|Connecticut||5000||On or before date listed on the notice of suit||Yes|
|District of Columbia||5000||Not required||Yes|
|Florida||5000||5+ days before the pretrial conference if filing a counterclaim. Otherwise, not required.||Yes|
|Kentucky||2500||Within 5 days of the hearing if filing a counterclaim. Otherwise, not required.||Yes|
|Maryland||5000||15 to 60 days||Yes|
|Minnesota||15000||Within 5 days of the trial if filing a counterclaim. Otherwise, not required.||Yes|
|Missouri||5000||Before the hearing if filing a counterclaim. Otherwise, not required.||Yes|
|Montana||7000||Within 72 hours before the hearing if filing a counterclaim. Otherwise, not required.||No|
|Nebraska||3600||2+ days before trial if filing a counterclaim. Otherwise, not required.||No|
|New Hampshire||7500||30 days||Yes|
|New Jersey||3000||35 days if filing a counterclaim. Otherwise, not required.||Yes|
|New Mexico||10000||On or before the appearance date listed on the summons||Yes|
|New York||5000||5 days if filing a counterclaim. Otherwise, not required.||Yes|
|North Carolina||10000||Any time before trial||Yes|
|North Dakota||15000||20 days||Yes|
|Ohio||3000||7+ days before trial if filing a counterclaim. Otherwise, not required.||Yes|
|Oklahoma||7500||72+ hours before the appearance date if filing a counterclaim. Otherwise, not required.||Yes|
|Pennsylvania||12000||5 or 10 days before court date||Yes|
|Rhode Island||2500||On or before date listed on the summons||Yes|
|South Carolina||7500||30 days||Yes|
|South Dakota||12000||Not required||Yes|
|Texas||10000||Before the next Monday after 10 days||Yes|
|Utah||10000||15+ days before trial if filing a counterclaim. Otherwise, not required.||Yes|
|West Virginia||5000||20 days||Yes|