Once you have tried to resolve your matter outside of court without success you are ready to file.
The form you need to file is available at the Small Claims clerk’s office or you can download it online. It is sometimes difficult to know where to file your claim. In most cases, you will file where the Defendant lives or does business with a few exceptions depending on the nature of your case.
If you are the Defendant and someone is suing you in the wrong court, you can request a dismissal but make sure you react with enough time before the trial. If the court agrees with you, your case will be dismissed.
After filing you must serve the defendant(s) or business(es) you are suing. Serving means delivering a copy of your claim to any person involved in your case. Without service, the court will not be able to hear your case. You are not allowed to serve yourself but you have a few options.
You can serve by personal service meaning that any person 18 years old or older can deliver your claim for you to the Defendant. In that case, the Defendant needs to accept or touch the claim in order to be served.
You can also serve by substituted service. At the time of the delivery, the Defendant must be told about the content of the claim and another copy must be mailed 1st class at the address where the claim was served. The service will only be considered valid 10 days after the copy of the claim was mailed. The person who served the defendant must also sign a “proof of service” showing when the Defendant was served and return it to the court clerk.
You can also serve by certified mail but in that case only the Small Claims clerk is allowed to serve it in this way in exchange of a fee. Serving will be considered complete when the receipt, signed by the Defendant is returned to the clerk.
In some cases the Sheriff will be able to serve it for a fee but not in every county.
Finally, you can use a registered process server.
It might sometimes be difficult to locate the person or entity you are trying to serve.
If the person has moved you can still send a letter to the last known address and write “Address Correction Requested” below your return address and “Do not forward”. This way you will get the new address once the letter is returned to you. If you are trying to locate a business and the only information you have is a Post Office box, you can request a phone number and an address at the post office.
Finally it is really important to get the full name of the person you are serving. Indeed you will only be able to collect from the person or entity that appears, correctly, in your claim.