How do I start a small claims action?

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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Go to the appropriate small claims court (some even have evening hours). State laws may require you to use the small claims court: in your jurisdiction, where the person you want to sue resides, where the accident occurred, or where you bought the defective merchandise. For information on your state’s small claims courts see our small claims resources page, Small Claims Courts Information and Links.

Many of the court clerks are very helpful, and will tell you if you are in the right small claims court. Ask the court clerk for the appropriate form. You’ll have to fill out a form known as a claim form, complaint form, or Claim of Plaintiff. You may also have to pay the court a filing fee to start the action. (If you win your case you may be able to recover the amount the court finds you are owed plus the filing fee and certain other court costs).

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