Can I hire a lawyer?
For California small claims court cases, you are not able to be represented by an attorney at the actual hearing. However, you are able to talk to an attorney before or after the small claims court trial to answer questions and discuss strategy.
Limits on Imperial County Small Claims Court
A person cannot sue in small claims court for more than $10,000.00. A business can only sue for $5,000 or less in small claims court. A person can only file two small claims court actions for more than $2,500 in one year. A party can file as many cases in small claims court with an amount of $2,500 or less.
What is small claims court mediation?
Imperial County Superior Court may offer mediation for your claim before the actual trial. Mediation is a legal term which means that each side will have a discussion with an impartial third party to try and reach an agreement for the outcome of the case. Mediation can occur before the trial or even on the same day as your trial. Mediation is nothing to be scared of, but rather another chance for you to explain your side of the case (which will better prepare you for the actual hearing in front of the judge).
Statute of Limitations in Small Claims Court Cases
All claims must be filed before the statute of limitations has run. The statute of limitations is a legal term that means the time someone has to file a claim. The time limit is different depending on the type of the case. If you were hurt, you have two years from the date of the injury or the date the injury is discovered to file your claim. (A child has two years from the date of his or her eighteenth birthday to file a case). If the defendant broke an oral contract, the plaintiff must file the case within two years of the breach. If a written contract was broken, you have three years from when the agreement was broken. If you lost money because you were tricked or lied to, you have three years from when you learn of the deceit to file your case. It can be very difficult to determine when the statute of limitations begins to run (even for veteran attorneys). It is better to file sooner, rather than later, and let the judge decide.
Small Claims Court Locations for Imperial County
Imperial County Small Claims Court cases are heard in 4 courthouses across Imperial County. The website for Imperial County Superior court is: www.imperial.courts.ca.gov. Here are the locations:
The Main Courthouse is located at:939 W. Main St., Courthouse El Centro, CA 92243-2842
The phone number is: 760-482-2200
The Brawley Court is located at:220 Main St. Brawley, CA 92227-2414
The phone number is: 760-482-2200
Valley Plaza Department
The Valley Plaza Department is located at:
The phone number is: 760-336-3550
The Winterhaven Department is located at:1625 W. Main St. El Centro, CA 92243
The phone number is: 760-336-3500
Filing Fee for Small Claims Court cases in Imperial County
The filing fee is required to be paid by the plaintiff when the claim is filed with the court. The amount of the filing fee is relative to the amount the plaintiff is seeking. If a party has filed twelve or less claims over the past twelve months, the fee is:
- $0 to $1,500 – $30
- $1,500.01 to $5,000.00 – $50
- $5,000.01 to $10,000.00 – $75
Once a party has filed twelve cases within twelve months, each consecutive case has a $100 filing fee.
Which cases are filed in Imperial County?
Normally, a case must be filed in the County where the Defendant resides (lives for a person or business has its principle place of business). Exceptions to this include automobile accidents (which can be filed where the accident happened). A person can file an action in small claims court if that person is at least 18 years old or a child who has been emancipated. If someone is under eighteen or not mentally competent, the judge can appoint a person (usually a relative) as a guardian ad litem to act on that person’s behalf throughout the case. A guardian ad litem is an adult appointed by the court to represent that person only for that case.
Small Claims Court in Imperial County
Small Claims Court is a special court whose purpose is to handle cases an efficient, inexpensive fashion. The procedures and rules of evidence for small claims court cases in Imperial are the same for any County in California. The rules are designed to be less complex and more less formal when compared to general civil cases. The person or business that files the action is the plaintiff. The party who is being sued is known as the defendant. In small claims court cases in California, neither party is allowed to have a lawyer represent you at the hearing. However, you are able to consult and speak with an attorney before or after the small claims court hearing.
What types of cases are filed in Imperial County Small Claims Court?
A wide variety of cases can be filed in small claims court. Some common types of cases are automobile accidents, property damage incidents, homeowners association disputes, landlord tenant disputes (possible over security deposits), and contractor disputes.
How can I prepare for my Small Claims Court Hearing?
Your case will probably be on the same calendar and heard at the same time as a number of other small claims court cases. The court’s schedule is busy and because of this scheduling, you will only have a few minutes to present your case. (You can pay attention to the cases that are heard before you). It is very important to spend time preparing for your case ahead of time. This means organizing and bringing all paperwork and other documents that support your side (receipts, contracts, pictures, etc.). Bring other witnesses who were present during relevant times and can provide testimony about the incident. Ensuring that you are prepared for your case goes along way to securing a successful outcome. After each side has had the opportunity to present its side, the court will make a decision. The court will either make its ruling immediately, or notify both sides of its decision through the mail (make sure your address with the court is correct).
When will my case be heard?
Each County has its own Superior Court. The amount of time between when the claim is filed and heard varies between each County (and even within each County). Generally, the small claims court trial should be between twenty and seventy days after the case is filed. Because of state cuts to the Imperial County Superior Court budget, most hearings are set well past the seventy days.