You were just in a car accident, but you’re lucky. You avoided injury. However, your car’s damaged and you don’t have collision coverage and the other side wont pay. What can you do?
Can you sue for property damage when no lawyer will take your case because the damages are too small to pay a lawyer a lot of money? Yes, sue in small claims court. It’s what you see on TV: The People’s court, Judge Wapner, Judge Judy, or Judge Mathis, and all the TV shows that just have two people standing on front of a judge without a lawyer.
In Philadelphia, this Court is called Municipal Court. In surrounding counties, it’s called Magisterial District Court. Judges in these courts also handle small criminal complaints, landlord tenant matters, and any case that has damages under twelve thousand dollars.
This court is set up and designed so that people can handle the claims themselves. To file a claim, you go to an office called “first filing” on the 10th floor of 1339 Chestnut Street in Philadelphia and don’t need an attorney to prepare the complaint. A clerk or other Court personnel will help because the forms are simpler, the process is less strict, and the stakes are lower.
Don’t be intimidated or discouraged because of you don’t know what a lawyer knows. For those of you not in Philadelphia or even Pennsylvania, just look up your local small claims or magisterial court, call the clerk’s or info desk, and ask questions. Or, just show up and ask for help. You’ll get results without people at the courthouse getting frustrated with you for what you don’t know. In this court, you’re not expected to know everything and you’re still allowed to sue. In Small claims court, things are easier and meant for you to handle it yourself. Each township and county in the country has one.
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