You can ask for up to $6,000 for a small claims action filed in Alabama District Court—the court that handles small claims matters in Alabama.
No. Evictions aren't heard as small claims in Alabama District Court. However, it's an excellent forum for other types of cases typically brought in small claims courts, such as property damage matters and breach of contract disputes.
Alabama has many courthouses. You must choose the proper court location or "venue," otherwise, the defendant—the person or company you sue—will be able to ask the court to transfer or dismiss your action. In Alabama, you can file in the county or district where one of the following occurs:
Go to the Alabama Secretary of State business entity records webpage for company information. Also, be aware that you might have other options, depending on your case. Most courts post venue rules on the court website.
You don't have an unlimited amount of time to file a claim. You'll have to bring it within the statute of limitations period for your particular case. For example, the Alabama statute of limitations is six years for oral and written contract cases, two years for personal injury matters, and six years for property damage cases. Other limitations periods exist, depending on the type of action. If you don't file within the proper period, you lose your right to sue.
Also, the statute of limitations can stop and restart depending on various circumstances, and figuring out when it expires can be challenging. For instance, if a minor is injured, the personal injury statute won't begin running until the child reaches 18 years of age. Learn more about calculating the statute of limitations.
Yes. Individuals can have a lawyer present the claim before the judge or jury. Collection agencies must be represented by counsel.
Yes. The defendant must file a written answer within 14 days of service of the small claims action. You must file your answer and appear on the date in the court documents to avoid an automatic loss and default judgment.
Learn what happens if you get sued in small claims court.
A judge will decide your small claims case. Alabama's small claims court doesn't allow for jury trials.
Find out what to expect at the small claims trial.
Either side can appeal the decision. You'll have to file the appeal within 14 days from the date of the judgment or the denial of a post-trial motion. Finding the post-trial motion denial date should be simple—it will likely be the date of the decision. Determining the "date of judgment" could be a bit trickier so you'll want to check with the court clerk. You must comply with this and other rules or you'll lose your appeal rights. If you're confused about the process, talk with a local attorney.
No. You'll be responsible for all collection efforts. It's a good idea to determine whether you can collect before deciding whether to sue.
Most courts include filing instructions on the court website or provide self-help services. For additional resources, try the Legal Services of Alabama's small claims court webpage.
You can also view Alabama law online on the Georgetown Law website. (Ala. Code §§ 6-3-2; 6-3-7; 12-12-31; 12-12-70; 12-12-71; Alabama Small Claims Rules, Rules A to N; Alabama Small Claims Forms, 1 to 8.)
For detailed help with case filing, court strategy, and collecting a money judgment, see Everybody's Guide to Small Claims Court by Attorney Cara O'Neill (Nolo).
Look out for Legal Changes. This overview doesn't provide all of the information needed to file a small claims case. Also, keep in mind that statutes can change, and checking them is always a good idea. How the courts interpret and apply the law can also change. These are just some of the reasons to consult an attorney if you have any questions about litigating your case or if you aren't comfortable independently verifying the law.