How to Use This Book

This guide covers the procedures that both plaintiffs and defendants should use to successfully bring or defend a small claims case. Unlike other guides, it also contains step-by-step instructions for preparing particularly common small claims cases, along with examples from real cases.

Chapters 2 and 3 help you answer the basic question of whether you should sue in the first place by asking two crucial questions: Do you have a good case? Can you collect any money from the defendant if you win? If your answer to either of these questions is "no," then you should read Chapter 6 to see whether you might be able to settle your dispute without going to court, or you should consider dropping the idea of a lawsuit.

Chapters 4-9 walk you through the procedural details. Small claims court is meant to be easy, but it still has rules about how much money you can sue for, who you can sue, what court you should bring your lawsuit in, and so forth.

Chapters 10 and 11 are about the actual paperwork: How do you fill out your papers and deliver them to the defendant once you've decided to bring a small claims lawsuit?

Chapter 12 is for the defendant. You've just been sued; what do you do?

Chapters 13-15 get you ready for your day in court. In Chapters 23 and 24 you'll find out how the judge issues a ruling, how to appeal, and how to collect your money if you're successful.

In Chapters 16-22, we look at the most common types of cases and discuss strategies to handle each. Even if your fact situation doesn't fit neatly into one of these categories, you should read this material. By picking up a few hints here and a little information there, you should be able to piece together a good plan of action. For example, many of the suggestions on how to handle motor vehicle repair disputes can also be applied to cases involving problems with fixing major appliances such as televisions, washers, and expensive stereos.

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