Ask A Small Claims Court Lawyer
DO YOU WANT TO SUE?
Suing is always a last and a very poor option. It usually costs more money and time than it is worth. Especially in Small Claims. Suing is a messy, time consuming business
You may be angry about that deadbeat today, but is it really worth a few hundred dollars and a year or so of aggravation to sue her?
In the end, most cases settle on the court room steps because both parties just want the matter over and done with.
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CAN YOU PROVE YOUR CLAIM?
You must prove your claim on the balance of probabilities. If your case is not strong enough to support that burden of proof, then you might as well just chalk it up to a learning experience.
Small Claims is not Judge Judy. You need real proof, not just a hunch.
No proof? You lose. Guaranteed.
If you lose, you will probably have to pay costs to the other side. Allow about 15% of the amount claimed for costs and you still have to collect.
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There will be a mandatory settlement conference at some point prior to trial. The court will notify you. Attendance is compulsory, but the outcome is up to the parties, not the court.
If you can reach a settlement at this point, you will probably be better off. Make a deal if you can.
Suing in Small Claims Court is frequently a case of throwing good money after bad.
It will easily cost you about $300.00 and 4 or 5 full days of your time to file, serve, attend the settlement conference and the trial regardless if you win or lose your case. There are filing fees around $75 to file a claim. If you want to go to trial, there is another fee of around $145.00 (fees vary from province to province.)
If you use a process server to server your claim on the defendant, you will probably pay $100 to $150. Shop around for process servers.
IF YOU LOSE
You may have to pay some of the costs to the other side. If the other side is using a lawyer, costs will be much higher if you lose.
IF YOU WIN
You still have to collect. Is it worth it? Think twice before you answer. It can cost more time and money to collect from a deadbeat than it is worth. Courts will NOT collect money for you. You must do that yourself.
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A year from start to judgment is not unusual. In large cities it can be two years.
After you get a judgment you still have to collect and that can take another year if the debtor drags it out. Either side can request adjournments and the court will almost always grant the first request no matter what. That means you go back to the bottom of the trial list and a delay of many months. As they say, a bad lawyer can delay a trial for months. A good lawyer can delay it for years.
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ARE YOU BEING SUED?
If you have been served with a Small Claims Court Statement of Claim naming you as a defendant, then yes, you are being sued.
Generally you will have 20 days to file your defence at the Small Claims Court office named in the Statement of Claim. There are free Defence forms for this available on line in the various provincial Small Claims Court web sites.
You must also serve your defence on the plaintiff, the party who is suing you, obtain an Affidavit of Service proving you served your defence on the plaintiff.