No, it is not necessary to have a lawyer. Small Claims court is considered a "people's court" and a lawyer is not required. Clerk's office personnel will provide you, for a fee, the necessary forms for filing a Small Claims Case.
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A Small Claims case is a legal action filed in County court to settle minor legal disputes among parties where the dollar amount involved is $8,000 or less, excluding costs, interest and attorney fees.
A Small Claims case may be filed with the:Clerk of the Circuit Court Main Office100 SE Ocean BoulevardConstitutional Office Building, 2nd floorStuart, FL 34994
Any person(s) 18 years of age or older or any individual(s) doing business as a company may file a Small Claims case. A parent or guardian may file on behalf of a minor child. Each person who is a party to the claim must appear at the Clerk's Office to sign the necessary paperwork in the presence of a deputy clerk or the signatures must be notarized.
Filing fees for small claims actions are determined by Florida Statues and Martin County Ordinances and are subject to change. Fees also vary in accordance with the dollar amount of your claim and the type of action. Other fees are required for service on the parties you are suing and are dependent on the type of service you select. A current schedule of Service Charges is available on this site for your information.
It is important that you file your claim against the right party. The additional time you spend researching the correct name could make a difference in whether you are able to collect should a Judgment be entered by the court in your favor. Copies of any contracts, notes, leases, receipts, or other evidence you may have in support of your claim must be furnished for each person you are suing as well as the court. You will need to bring the originals to your first court appearance. A full explanation of your reason for the Small Claims action will be necessary. You may wish to write this explanation out at home and bring it with you when you come to the clerk's office to initiate your Small Claims case.
Any time you sue someone other than an individual, there is additional information needed to complete the necessary forms. For example, if you are suing an individual doing business as a company, a partnership where there are several people doing business as a company? It is important for you to research this information carefully. Assistance in determining if the person you are suing is a company, corporation, an individual doing business as a company or partnership may be obtained by calling the Clerk of the Circuit Court, Official Records (in the county where the business is located) or the Secretary of State, Corporate Division at 850-488-9000 or visit Sunbiz. If you determine that the company you are suing is not a registered corporation, contact the occupational license bureau of the county where the business is located.
The information contained in this website is intended only as a guide to assist you with the basic facts of filing a Small Claims case. Detailed information may be found in "Everybody's Guide to Small Claims Court", available in the law library. The public library will also have a copy for your reference.
After you file your Small Claims case, each person or business you are suing must be served with a summons to appear in court on the date and time scheduled when you filed your claim. This court date will be a pre-trial conference where mediation will be held. If the case cannot be mediated you will receive a trial date. At the trial, you will have an opportunity to explain your case to the judge, ask the person(s) you are suing any questions concerning your claim, present your documentation as discussed at the pre-trial conference, and call on your witnesses to help explain your case.
Yes, mediation allows both parties to freely present their case in the quiet relaxed atmosphere of a conference room under the expert guidance of an experienced mediator who will strive to guide a settlement of the issues that will be beneficial to both parties. It will save time and money. Successful mediation means no further court appearances, therefore, no further toll of time from normal activities for you.
If at any time in the proceedings a settlement is reached between the parties, the plaintiff (person(s) who filed the suit) must notify the Clerk of the Court's Office, in writing, of the settlement - and all signatures must be notarized.
The court does not collect money damages for you. You may wish to consult with an attorney for advice on how to collect your judgment. You may find the book "Lawyers Edition of Florida Summary Claims Handbook" helpful. Also, visit Sunbiz for more information on how to collect your judgment.
If you choose to place a Judgment Lien against any individually owned real property of the defendant's following the award of a Judgment in your favor, you must obtain a certified copy of your Judgment from the Clerk of the Circuit Court and record it as a Judgment Lien. Fees for recording are set by statute and are subject to change by legislative action. Contact the Clerk of the Court in the county where the property is located for their current fees for recording a certified copy of a Judgment.