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How Can a Lawyer Help You in Small Claims Court?

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How Can a Lawyer Help You in Small Claims Court? - Anderson LeBlanc Upland Attorney

How Can a Lawyer Help You in Small Claims Court?

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Story Provided By HG.org

Small claims court provides an alternative avenue for individuals to pursue claims of a lower value, usually for a maximum claim of $5,000. These proceedings tend to be less formal than other types of court proceedings. However, a lawyer’s experience and knowledge may make the difference between winning or losing a case.

Representation
While a few states exclude lawyers from appearing on clients’ behalf in small claims court, most states do permit parties to be represented by legal counsel. If the legal dispute will not take too much time so that the expense is justified, a party may hire a lawyer to represent him or her in small claims court.

This is particularly important if the other party has a lawyer. One party will not want to be disadvantaged by being a layperson who is in an adversarial position to someone who is represented by a private lawyer.

Another important consideration in determining whether a lawyer should be retained to represent you in small claims court is if there is a viable counter-claim. As a plaintiff, you may feel that it is worth the risk to handle the case on your own. However, as a counter-defendant, you may face a judgment against you up to the statutory amount, such as $5,000.

Representation may also be warranted if you are suing a corporation or governmental entity in small claims court and the court allows the action in this venue. Some states require that such entities have legal counsel at all legal proceedings.

Assessment
Even if you reach the conclusion that you will not use a lawyer in small claims court for representation purposes, there may be several other advantages to involving a lawyer. For example, you may wish to have a consultation in which you discuss the facts and circumstances of the case with a neutral party. In this manner, you can get the lawyer’s opinion about the strength of your case. You may also learn about weaknesses in your case that you may not have considered. You may be able strengthen some of the aspects of your case before your hearing date.

Advice
A lawyer may give you advice about whether or not you should pursue the action against the other party. He or she may discuss the problems with collecting on a judgment even if you do win. This can help you make a more informed decision about the likelihood of actually collecting on a judgment.

Preparation
A lawyer may also be able to assist plaintiffs and counter-defendants with the preparation of evidence. He or she may describe the process involved in getting evidence admitted in court. He or she can also point out if there are some types of evidence that may not be admissible, such as a written document signed by a person who is not a witness in court because it may be considered hearsay. Additionally, a lawyer may be able to describe when there is an exception to the general rule regarding evidence.

Considerations of Expense
While many people may be motivated by other aspects of the case such as the principal of the case, going to small claims court involves a monetary assessment. Small claims courts are usually only allowed to grant a monetary award. They usually cannot grant an injunction telling the defendant what not to do or other equitable relief.

Therefore, the question becomes whether hiring a lawyer is worth the expense. Hiring a lawyer may increase the odds for a person to successfully pursue a claim. However, a lawyer’s expenses may exceed a statutory threshold allowed for a small claims case. Therefore, it is important that a plaintiff assess whether it makes financial sense to involve a lawyer.

Lawyers may work with a variety of fee structures to assist individuals with smaller claims. For example, they may take a case on a contingency basis in which they may front legal costs and expenses until you receive a judgment. They may agree to a fixed fee in which the amount of legal expenses is capped at a certain dollar amount. An hourly fee may work for you if the lawyer will only take a few hours to assess your case, provide advice or assist with evidence issues, potentially leaving you with money after these expenses if you win the case.

Read the original article at HG.org

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Story Provided By HG.org
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Comments 1

  • Bob Lowe

    May 13, 2016 12:40 pm · Reply

    Thanks for the post. I agree that even if you don’t use a lawyer in the court you can still benefit from consulting with them. They know the laws, and that can really help you with your case. I think they can also help you prepare your case, so that you are prepared.

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