Is small claims court right for me? (California)

Updated: Apr 26

Small claims court handles cases that involve small amounts of money, usually limited to $10,000 or less. Small claims court can help you resolve the dispute quickly and inexpensively so that you can get justice.

Besides awarding up to $10,000 in damages and costs, judges in small claims court can also order the defendant to return property (such as a car) or to change behavior (for example, to stop hosting loud parties).

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Think carefully about why you want to sue. What do you want? Make sure you can sue in small claims court for what you want. If you want something that small claims court judges cannot give you, the judge can’t rule in your favor on your case, even if you are in the right.

Below are some of the situations that California small claims courts can handle. In all cases the monetary value of the damages you intend to seek must be no more than $10,000:

  • If you lent money, you can sue someone who doesn’t pay you back.

  • If you are a contractor or small business owner, you can sue someone who does not pay you after you provided a service or a product.

  • If you are a customer, you can sue someone who agreed to provide a service or a product and did not provide it.

  • If you are a tenant, you can sue a landlord who does not return your security deposit even though you followed the terms of your lease.

  • If you are a landlord, you can sue a tenant who does not pay rent.

You must know exactly what you want.  If you want money, you need to know how much money to ask for before you go to small claims court. You also need to be prepared to explain why the amount you ask for is the correct amount. By asking you a few questions, we can guide you to determine whether Small Claims Court is the appropriate choice for you!

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