Small Claims Rules in Each State - dummies

By Judge Philip Straniere

Part of Filing & Winning Small Claims For Dummies Cheat Sheet

There are 51 different small claims courts in the United States, one for each state and the District of Columbia. The law is different in each and may even vary in different parts of the same state. In fact, each state or county defines for itself what qualifies as “small claims.”

Providing a list of every website that can give you the information you need for your particular state is difficult and fruitless; new sites pop up all the time, and older sites are not always updated regularly. Rather than risk pointing you to outdated information, here are some pointers for finding the most up-to-date rules and other information regarding small claims in your state:

  • Search online for your state or city name plus the words “small claims court.” For example, you might search for “Springfield Illinois Small Claims Court”.

    Always look for official websites run by the court system or a government agency. These URLs generally end with .gov or .org. If you can’t find such a site for your state, don’t assume the site of another state will answer your questions. Remember, every state is different.

  • Look for a site maintained by a bar association or some advocacy group.

    Avoid websites that are maintained by attorneys or that refer you to specific lawyers. These sites may be useful to read, but be aware that the people running them are looking to represent you. Remember, not every state allows a lawyer in small claims court, so you may not even need or be able to use one.

  • Check out some general websites that provide information about each state’s small claims court:

As with any other Internet source, the information is only as good as the person posting it. Make sure it’s updated, and remember to always check directly with your local court before you begin pursuing your claim.