LEGAL GUIDE
Written by Avvo Staff

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.

Legal guide image 1453915661
State rules & limits in small claims court
  Dollar limit Time to answer complaint Are lawyers allowed?
Alabama 3000 14 days Yes
Alaska 10000 20 days Yes
Arizona 3500 20 days Yes, with the other parties consent
Arkansas 5000 20-30 days No
California 10000 Not required No
Colorado 7500 Not required No
Connecticut 5000 On or before date listed on the notice of suit Yes
Delaware 15000 15 days Yes
District of Columbia 5000 Not required Yes
Florida 5000 5+ days before the pretrial conference if filing a counterclaim. Otherwise, not required. Yes
Georgia 15000 30 days Yes
Hawaii 5000 Not required Yes
Idaho 5000 20 days No
Illinois 10000 Not required Yes
Indiana 6000 Not required Yes
Iowa 5000 Not required Yes
Kansas 4000 Not required No
Kentucky 2500 Within 5 days of the hearing if filing a counterclaim. Otherwise, not required. Yes
Louisiana 5000 10 days Yes
Maine 6000 Not required Yes
Maryland 5000 15 to 60 days Yes
Massachusetts 7000 Not required Yes
Michigan 5000 Not required No
Minnesota 15000 Within 5 days of the trial if filing a counterclaim. Otherwise, not required. Yes
Mississippi 3500 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
Nevada 7500 Not required Yes
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
Oregon 10000 14 days No
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
Tennessee 25000 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
Vermont 5000 20 days Yes
Virginia 5000 20 days Yes
Washington 5000 Not required No
West Virginia 5000 20 days Yes
Wisconsin 10000 Not required Yes
Wyoming 6000 Not required Yes

Free Q&A with lawyers in your area

Can’t find what you’re looking for?


Post a free question on our public forum.

Ask a Question

- or -

Search for lawyers by reviews and ratings.

Find a Lawyer