Collecting on a Debt: When Small Claims Court Isn’t Enough

collecting on a debt

Small Claims Court handles cases in which someone wants to sue another individual or business to collect a small sum of money they believe is owed to them. Often, small claims include cases like breach of contract, property loss or damage, consumer complaints, payment for work performed, claims on bad checks, renter’s claims, and more. Small Claims Court allows ordinary people the opportunity to resolve disputes at a low cost and without a lot of legal complications.

However, there are very specific rules you must follow in order to file in Small Claims Court. Small claims include cases wherein the individual is suing for no more than $3,000.00, or $5,000.00 in the case of a return of the tenant’s security deposit. In Small Claims Court, you can typically file and present your case relatively quickly and inexpensively.

Most individuals choose not to have legal representation in Small Claims Court because of the simpler nature of the small claims process. But while Small Claims Court can be very convenient for those seeking to recover a small sum, there are instances where small claims court is not enough.

It is crucial that you choose the correct court through which to file your claim. If the amount you are trying to recover is more than the Small Claims Court monetary limit but less than $15,000.00, you can file in the regular Special Civil Part. If the amount you are owed is more than $15,000.00, you must file in the Civil Part of the Law Division of the Superior Court.

It is also important to note that if you believe you are entitled to more money than the limits that Small Claims Court allows but still choose to file in Small Claims Court, you will forfeit your right to recover any damages that exceed the monetary limits. Any additional money cannot be claimed later in a separate lawsuit.

There are also specific instances in which you cannot file a claim through Small Claims Court. The following claims are more detailed and would likely require a legal preceding more complex than Small Claims Court:

  1. Claims arising from professional malpractice (Example: alleged malpractice by a doctor, a dentist, a lawyer, etc.).
  2. Claims for support or alimony from a marital or domestic dispute
  3. Claims arising from a probate matter, such as a will

collecting on a debt

In order to follow a simplified process that allows plaintiffs to present their own cases, Small Claims Court is typically not equipped to handle more complex cases, like the ones listed above. Cases that involve conflicting testimonies, disputed evidence, or other difficult legal issues should not be processed in Small Claims Court.  Keep in mind that Small Claims Court has specific rules and limitations to the kinds of cases it can handle. In some more complicated cases, or cases with a high recovery amount, you may be best served by hiring an attorney and taking your case outside of Small Claims Court.

A note about personal injury lawsuits – many cases are resolved in settlement instead of the courtroom. By resolving the suit through settlement, you save yourself valuable time and avoid the hassle of any court proceedings. An experienced personal injury attorney will be able to help you through the settlement process and provide advice on how and when to negotiate with the other party. You could get the outcome you desire without ever setting foot in the courtroom. In the even that your case does make it all the way to court, an attorney will be able to provide the legal expertise to help prove your claim.

When you reach out to Veitengruber Law to help you recoup money you are rightfully owed, you’ll find an experienced team who walks confidently through debt settlement cases. We can help with everything from case management and settlement negotiations to court proceedings. If your claim exceeds the monetary limitations of Small Claims Court or requires a more complicated legal understanding, our attorneys can help. Our dedicated legal team will work hard to make sure you are fully compensated for the money you are owed.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Veitengruber Law does evaluate personal injury cases. We have a strong team of PI attorneys in New Jersey to whom we refer clients after we evaluate your specific needs.

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