Understanding How Small Claims Court Works

By Amra Selimovic

If you have a claim against someone worth no more than $25,000, Small Claims Court may be right for you. The Small Claims Court process is less formal, less time-consuming and less expensive than other courts. And while you are not required to have one present, you should consider engaging a lawyer in situations where larger sums of money are involved.

A lawyer is also able to advise you on the limitations on the kinds of claims that can be brought before Small Claims Court. For example, Small Claims Court will not hear or resolve claims concerning defamation, entitlement under a Will, or disputes over the return of land.

After determining whether you can bring a claim, the next step is to file an application and personally serve it on the opposing party or the person you are taking to court. There are fees associated with filing an application, however, you may be able to recover those fees if you succeed at the hearing. You should also be aware that the opposing party can file both a defence and a counterclaim against you.

Once you’ve filed, the Small Claims Court provides you with a date, time, and dial-in information for a pre-hearing telephone conference. You do not need to prepare your case for this conference; it is simply intended to provide each party with more information and to assess how much time the actual hearing will require.

At the hearing, you present your case to an Adjudicator. The Adjudicator hears each party’s evidence and decides the case. When you present your case, you can provide oral testimony, call witnesses to provide oral testimony, and discuss any written documentation. Each party is also entitled to ask questions of the other party about the case.

Finally, once the hearing concludes, the Adjudicator will make an order dismissing or awarding the claim. Keep in mind, you may not receive the decision right away because the Adjudicator has up to sixty days after the hearing to make an order.

This article is for information only and is not intended to be legal advice. If you have any questions or would like further information, you should consult a lawyer.