How long does it take my case to be heard?
Lake County has its own Superior Court. Time between when the case is filed to when the case is heard vary amongst each County (and even within the same County). Generally, you will go to court between twenty and seventy days after the claim is filed. Because of state cuts to the Lake County Superior Court budget, most hearings are set well past the seventy days.
What is Small Claims Court?
Small claims court is a special court where disputes between parties are handled quickly and inexpensively. Each County in California follows the same rules and procedures for small claims court cases. The rules are designed to be less complex and more less formal when compared to general civil cases. The person who files the lawsuit or action is called 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. Each party is allowed to consult with an attorney before the hearing to answer questions and discuss the case.
Statute of Limitations in Small Claims Court Cases
All claims must be filed before the statute of limitations has run. Statute of limitations is a legal term for the deadline to file a case. The statute of limitations is different depending on the type of 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 minor has two years from his or her eighteenth birthday). If an oral contract (or oral agreement) was broken, you have two years after the agreement was broken to file your case. If there is a written contract, the plaintiff has three years to file the case from the date the defendant breached the contract. If you were the victim of fraud, you have three years from when you first learn of the fraud to file your case. It can be very difficult to find out when the statute of limitations begins to run. It is better to file sooner, rather than later, and let the judge decide.
Lake County 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. Because the court’s schedule is very busy (and has become more busy based on state cuts to the court’s budget), the court may expect you to present your entire case in a few minutes. It is essential to spend time preparing your case in advance. Bring any and all documents that support your case including: receipts, photos, contracts, and any other relevant documents. Bring other witnesses who were present during relevant times and can provide testimony about the incident. Making sure you are prepared for the hearing goes along way toward 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).
Lake County Small Claims Court Limits
A person cannot sue for more than $10,000 in a case. A corporation (or other corporate entity) cannot sue for more than $5,000. A party can only file two actions that are more than $2,500 in a year. A person or corporation can file as many cases seeking $2,500.00 or less.
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. A party can discuss the case with an attorney before or after the the case to answer questions and help a party prepare for the hearing.
Can I file my claim in Lake 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 a plaintiff is under eighteen or mentally incompetent, a judge will appoint someone (normally a relative) as a guardian ad litem. The guardian ad litem acts on behalf of the person and makes decisions specifically for that case only.
Small Claims Court Locations for Lake County
Lake County Small Claims Court cases are heard in 2 courthouses across Lake County. The website for Lake County Superior court is: www.lake.courts.ca.gov. Here are the following locations where small claims cases are heard:
The Main Courthouse is located at:255 N. Forbes St. Lakeport, CA 95453-4759
The phone number is: 707-263-2374
The Clearlake Division is located at:7000 A South Center Dr. Clearlake, CA 95422-670
The phone number is: 707-263-2374
Filing Fee for Small Claims Court cases in Lake County
A filing fee is required and is set relative to the amount of money you are requesting for your claim. If you filed twelve or less claims over the past twelve months, the filing fee is:
- $0 to $1,500 – $30
- $1,500 to $5,000 – $50
- $5,000 to $10,000 – $75
If you filed twelve or more small claims court actions in the last twelve months, the filing fee is a constant $100.00.
Types of Lake County Small Claims Court Cases
All types of cases can be filed in small claims court. Common cases are: car accidents, damage to property, some landlord tenant disputes, and contractor disputes.
What is small claims court mediation?
Your Lake County Small Claims Court cases may be sent to mediation before it is heard at the actual trial or hearing. 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 may be offered on the day of your actual court hearing, but before you see the judge. It is nothing to be scared of, just your chance to explain your side of the case to the mediator about what happened.