California Small Claims Court FAQs

California Small Claims Court FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Small Claims Court frequently asked questions

Small Claims Court FAQs

This is meant to be a quick stop to answer a variety of questions that many people have involving small claims court cases.  For more in depth information, we encourage you to view the other articles on our website.

What is small claims court?

A special court set up in California to handle disputes quickly, efficiently, and without the procedures and rules involved in every other court case.

Can I sue in small claims court?

Any mentally competent person who is eighteen years of age or an emancipated child may sue in small claims court.  (An emancipated minor is a minor whose parents no longer have control or custody of him or her-if you have to ask you are most likely not an emancipated minor).

What is the limit of how much money I can sue for?

A person cannot sure for more than $7,500 in a case.  A corporation (or other entity like the government) cannot sure for more than $5,000.  You can only file two claims per year for more than $2,500.  You can file as many claims as you want asking for $2500 or less.

A guarantor (a person who promises to be responsible for what another person owes) may only be sued for up to $4000 ($2,500 if they didn’t charge for the guarantee).  But if you are a person suing the Registrar of the Contractors’ State License Board, you can sue a guarantor for up to $7500.

Is there a cost to file a small claims court case?

Yes.  A filing fee is required and is based on the amount of your claim and the number of claims you have filed in the past twelve months.  If you filed twelve or less claims in the past twelve months, the filing fee is:

  • Suing for $0 through $1,500, the fee is $30
  • Suing for $1,500.01 through $5,000.00, the fee is $50
  • Suing for $5000.01 through $7,500.00, the fee is $75
If you filed more than twelve small claims court actions in the previous twelve months, the filing fee is $100 (no matter how much you are suing for).

Can I have an attorney?

You cannot have an attorney represent you in court.  However you are able to speak with an attorney before or after your hearing to answer any questions and/or ask for help preparing your case.  Our site has an in depth article detailing when you may see the other party represented by an attorney.

How long does it take for my case to be heard?

The Superior Courts of California are divided by counties.  So it varies within each county (depending on how backlogged the courts where you filed are).  Typically you will go to court between twenty and seventy days after your claim is filed (lately we are seeing hearings on the latter side of that time frame with many counties past the seventy days).

What types of cases can be filed in small claims court?

Many types of cases can be filed in small claims court.  The most common cases we see are automobile accidents, property damage, rent deposit disputes between a landlord and a tenant, and a collection of money owed.

What happens at the small claims court hearing?

The judge (check out our article on the type of judge you will see in small claims court) will listen to both sides of the story.  To help prepare your side, you should collect and provide to the court evidence like witnesses (who were there when the accident happened), photos (of the auto accident, your injuries, how clean your rental unit was when you left or how the damage was present when you moved in), any bills you received or sent to the defendant, any contracts that were signed between you and the other side, and any other relevant documents that help your case.

A judge may make a decision about your case at the hearing or mail it out later.


  1. Very concise, most helpful information. Thanks

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