Tips for Claims Under $5,000
A guide to handling your lawsuit yourself in Small Claims Court if the amount of money at stake is less than $5,000.
How much is my claim?In North Carolina, the value of your "claim" is simply the amount of money that you require to fix whatever wrong has been done to you. This is not the same as a crime or criminal proceeding -- instead, this is a civil action. If someone owes you money, for either breaking a contract, terminating a lease, not performing an agreed-upon service, or otherwise failing to live up to the promise they made to you, you often have a claim against that person. The amount of the claim is calculated by determining the value of the promise, product, or service that was supposed to have been provided. Often, this is an obvious term, like a price in a contract. If that amount is less than $5,000, you can represent yourself in Small Claims Court.
What is Small Claims Court?Small Claims Court is a special court in North Carolina for claims with smaller values. Although the amount of the claim permitted Small Claims Court can vary, $5,000 is the standard limit. Many individuals choose to represent themselves in Small Claims Court. If you have a claim for a value of less than $5,000 against someone in North Carolina, you may pursue it through Small Claims Court.
How do I file my lawsuit?In order to begin a law suit in Small Claims Court, you must fill out a complaint and summons. These forms can be found online at the North Carolina Courts website or at your local courthouse. The person filing the claim is the plaintiff (you), and the person who owes you something is the Defendant. You must fill out all the information in order for the Defendant to be properly served. Once you have filled out the complaint, you may pay a small fee for filing and for service on the Defendant. You may bring these to your local courthouse in your county and the clerk will help you file them.
What happens next?After your complaint has been filed, the court will set a date for the hearing. If you cannot make it to court on that date, you MUST contact the court for a continuance, in order to reschedule the hearing. On the date of your hearing, you will arrive to Small Claims Court to present your case. Good luck!