How to Prepare for a Small Claims Court Trial
The key to preparing a case for trial is to be able to explain your side of the case in a way that is easy for the judge (or jury) to understand. Before the trial date, you should gather any pieces of evidence that will help you explain your side of the case including any contracts, receipts, photographs, or other documents. It is recommended to prepare a short chronology of events or description of all of the facts surrounding 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). You should also take steps to secure the attendance of any witnesses that have information to help your case. You should make sure any witness you need is aware of the location of the court (including courtroom number) and the time and date of the trial. If the witness refuses to come to court, you will need to prepare and serve a subpoena for the witness’s attendance.
What Happens at a Small Claims Court Trial
In a court trial, the judge will decide the facts of your case and will listen to the evidence provided by the plaintiff and the defendant. The judge will also listen to any testimony from any witnesses and examine any exhibits (documents and photographs) provided by the parties. Plaintiffs present their side of the case first. The defendant presents their case after the plaintiff has concluded their presentation. 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.
Am I Able to Have an Attorney Represent Me in Small Claims Court?
Both plaintiffs and defendants are allowed to be represented by attorneys in small claims court or you can represent yourself. However, when a corporate entity is the plaintiff in a case, it is required to be represented by an attorney.
Small Claims Court Locations for Menard County
Small Claims Court cases are heard at:Menard County Courthouse P.O. Box 465 Petersburg, IL 62675
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:P.O. Box 466 Petersburg, Illinois 62675-0466
The clerk’s phone number for the court is: 217-632-2615
The clerk’s fax number for the court is: 217-632-4124
Does a Menard County Small Claims Court Jury or Judge?
In Illinois, a small claims court case can be heard in front of a judge or a jury. You are encouraged to consult with an attorney prior to requesting a jury trial. A jury trial is much more complex and difficult for a person to represent themselves in and requires substantially more preparation. Requesting a jury trial also has additional costs for the party making the request.
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
- repossessions of personal property that was leased or purchased on credit
- garnishment case against a debtor
The most amount of money that a court can award in small claims court is $10,000 (plus court costs and fees).
What County Should a Small Claims Court Case be filed in?
In Illinois, a small claims court case must be filed in the county where one of the defendants live or in the county in which the incident or transaction took place. In the case of a traffic collision, it would be the county where the traffic collision occurred.
How to File a Small Claims Court Case
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 that files the complaint is called the plaintiff. The defendant is the term that refers to the party being sued in the complaint.
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. Sending a demand letter is recommended because filing a case and resolving it in court often takes time. Additionally, collection of funds after winning a judgment is not a guarantee. If it is possible to settle your case before filing with the court, it is an option worth exploring. Finally, a demand letter allows the plaintiff a chance to explain in clear words the facts surrounding the issue (which is something the plaintiff will have to do in the complaint which is filed with the court).
Service of a Menard County Small Claims Court Defendant
After filing the complaint, the plaintiff needs to arrange for it to be served. Serving an individual is easy (if an address is known). Service of a corporate entity can be slightly more complex. In Illinois, a corporation can be served on either an office of the corporation or its registered agent. This information can be obtained online at the Illinois Secretary of State website.
Small Claims Court in Menard County
Small claims court is a special type of civil court where a party can file a case for $10,000 or less. Small claims court has much simpler rules and procedures and is designed to try cases faster.
What happens after the Small Claims Court Trial?
If the court rules in favor of the plaintiff, it will issue a judgment of monetary damages. Illinois law requires that either party wishing to appeal the judgment in small claims court needs to be filed the appeal within thirty days of the date the judgment is entered by the court.
Who can Bring a Case in Menard County 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). If someone is under eighteen, the court may appoint a guardian to act on behalf of the minor. The court does require that any corporation acting as a plaintiff in small claims court be represented by an attorney. However, if a corporation is acting as a defendant, it is allowed to be represented by certain members of the corporation.