Can I have an attorney represent me in Small Claims Court?
Plaintiffs and Defendants can either represent themselves or use an attorney. But, corporate entities that are the plaintiffs are required to be represented by an attorney.
Preparing for a Small Claims Court Hearing
The most important thing about preparing for your trial is the ability to explain your side of the case in a clear concise way to the judge (or jury) so they can understand. Bring documents, photographs, contracts, receipts, or anything else that supports your position. It is useful to prepare a short chronology of the dates and times of the events in your case. The court will pay particular attention to details including times, dates, value of damages so it is critical to have these details noted and documented ahead of time (and even including them in your complaint). Witnesses who support your side of the case should also be invited to court to provide testimony during the trial. It is important the witness is aware of the location of the court and the date and time of the trial in order to be able to appear in person. If the person refuses to come to court, you may need to take steps to issue a subpoena for them to attend.
What Happens at a Small Claims Court Trial
At a bench trial (or trial in front of a judge), the judge will listen to both the plaintiff and the defendant. The judge will also listen to any witness testimony and will review exhibits offered by either the plaintiff or the defendant. Plaintiffs present their side of the case first. The defendant puts on its side of the case once the plaintiff has finished. It is imperative that you speak slowly and clearly for the judge to be able to understand your side of the case. Normally, people will naturally be inclined to be nervous when speaking in public (and in front of a court), so it is recommended you practice discussing your side of the case in front of another person (spouse, relative, neighbor, friend) so you get more comfortable speaking about it.
How do I file a case in small claims court?
To begin a small claims case, the party needs to file a document with the court clerk called a complaint. A small claims complaint can be obtained at the court clerk’s office. The party filing the complaint is called the plaintiff. The party being sued in the complaint is called the defendant.
Who can be a plaintiff in small claims court?
An Illinois corporation or any resident in Illinois can use small claims court to file a claim (and be sued as well). The court may require the appointment of a guardian for those parties under the age of 18. A corporation is not required to be represented by an attorney in small claims court. However, if a corporation is acting as a defendant, it is allowed to be represented by certain members of the corporation.
Before Filing a Small Claims Court Case
Before a party files a case in small claims court, it is recommended to contact the party directly by sending a demand letter. A demand letter is a written summary describing the circumstances of the plaintiff’s claim and explains why the plaintiff should be awarded the money. The demand letter is recommended because resolving a case through small claims court (even though quicker and simpler than a regular civil case) still takes time. Additionally, collection of any court award takes additional time and is never guaranteed. If there is a chance you can resolve the case without filing in small claims court, it is a worthwhile step to take. Drafting a demand letter also allows the plaintiff to explain the case in a brief manner (which has to be done when the complaint is filed in the court).
What County Should a Small Claims Court Case be filed in?
The law in Illinois mandates that a case be filed in the county where (1.) one of the defendants live or (2.) the county where the incident or transaction involved in the case occurred. In the case of a traffic collision, it would be the county where the traffic collision occurred.
Serving a Party in Adams County Small Claims Court
After a complaint is filed, the next step is for the plaintiff to affect service of the complaint on the defendant(s). Serving an individual is easy (if an address is known). Service of a corporate entity can be slightly more complex. In the State of Illinois, a corporate entity can be served on a corporation’s office or its registered agent. This information can be obtained online at the Illinois Secretary of State website.
Types of Small Claims Court Cases
Illinois restricts the types of cases that can be filed in small claims court to the following:
- breach of contract
- property damage
- personal injury cases
- repossessions of personal property that was leased or purchased on credit
- garnishment case against a debtor
The maximum judgment that can be allowed in small claims court is $10,000 (plus costs).
After the Small Claims Court Hearing
If the judge rules in favor of the plaintiff, the judge can issue an order or judgment awarding the plaintiff monetary damages. The law in Illinois requires that an appeal from the judgment be filed within thirty days of the date the judgment is entered by the court.
Small Claims Court Adams County
Small claims court in Adams County is a unique type of court where a plaintiff can file a case in an amount of $10,000 or less. Small claims court in Adams County uses simpler rules and procedures than regular civil court which allows cases to be tried or resolved quicker and by people who are not attorneys.
Does a Adams County Small Claims Court Jury or Judge?
In Adams County, a small claims trial may be in front of a jury or a judge. It is highly recommended that a party consult with an attorney before asking for a jury trial. A jury trial (which can be in front of six or twelve jurors) is highly complex and requires significantly more preparation than a trial in front of a judge. Also, if you are the party making the request for a jury trial, you will incur additional costs associated with the jury trial.
Small Claims Court Locations for Adams County
In Adams County, Small Claims Court cases are heard at:Adams County Courthouse 507 Vermont Street Quincy, IL 62301
The court’s website is here. The circuit court clerk takes care of all documents and files for court cases. The circuit clerk’s address is:521 Vermont Street Quincy, Illinois 62301-2934
The clerk’s phone number for the court is: 217-277-2100
The clerk’s fax number for the court is: 217-277-2116