Filing a Small Claim in North Carolina: A Step-by-Step Guide

Oliver Jay

In North Carolina, approximately 69,001 reported car accidents as of 2020. In situations where property damage is minimal, such as less than $2,000, and there are no physical injuries involved, going full-on into a civil court case may not be justified. 

In Mecklenburg County, small claims court is part of the North Carolina District Court Division, which is an alternative way for filing a claim. The court will designate a magistrate judge to hear the cases. Depending on the county, the maximum amount of money that can be requested in a small claims case can range from $5,000 to $10,000.

In this article, we will give you invaluable information and walk you through the process of seeking justice. From determining your eligibility to preparing for the small claims hearing, each stage is outlined to help you handle the legal system successfully.

Determine Eligibility

Before you file a small claim in North Carolina, there are a few criteria you have to check off your list first.

  • You must be at least 18 years old. 
  • You need to have a valid claim against someone else. This means that you must have been harmed or wronged by another party, and you’re seeking a monetary judgment for the damages incurred.

Small claims are typically limited to a maximum amount, which varies by state. In North Carolina, the maximum amount you can claim is $10,000. Your claim must fall within this limit to be eligible for filing. Generally, small claims are filed in the county where the defendant resides or where the incident occurred. Make sure you have the proper jurisdiction before proceeding with your claim.

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Gather Necessary Documentation

Gathering the necessary documentation is meant to provide evidence to support your claim and strengthen your case. 

  • Collect any written agreements, contracts, or receipts related to the dispute. These documents serve as proof of the transaction or agreement and can help establish your rights. Make sure to include any contacts, such as emails or text messages, that are relevant to your case.
  • Collect any photographs, videos, or other visual evidence that supports your claim. Visual evidence can be powerful in demonstrating the extent of damages or the conditions that led to the dispute. These materials should be clear and properly labeled to avoid any confusion during the court proceedings.
  • Gather any witness statements or testimonies that support your case. Witness statements can provide valuable firsthand accounts and perspectives on the events in question. Have these statements in writing and that they’re signed and dated by the witnesses.

Complete the Small Claims Complaint Form

Once you have gathered all the necessary documentation, it’s time to complete the Small Claims Complaint Form. This form outlines the details of your case and serves as the official document that initiates your claim. Be sure to accurately and thoroughly complete this form.

  1. Get the Small Claims Complaint Form from the clerk of the court where you plan to file your claim. This form will typically require you to provide information such as your name, address, and contact details, as well as the same information for the defendant. 
  2. You have to provide a clear and concise description of your claim, including the amount of money you’re seeking in damages.
  3. Take your time to carefully review the instructions provided on the form and provide all the necessary information. 
  4. Include any supporting documentation or evidence that strengthens your case. 
  5. Once you have completed the form, make several copies for your records and submit the original to the clerk of the court. 
  6. There may be a filing fee associated with submitting your complaint.
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File the Complaint With the Court

Submit the completed Small Claims Complaint Form to the clerk of the court to officially file your complaint. Once you have completed the form, make sure to review it carefully for accuracy and completeness. Any mistakes or missing information could potentially delay the processing of your claim.

To file your complaint, you’ll need to visit the courthouse where the defendant resides or where the incident occurred. Approach the clerk’s office and inform them that you’d like to file a small claims complaint. The clerk will provide you with the necessary forms and guide you through the filing process.

When you submit the Small Claims Complaint Form, the clerk will review it to ensure it meets all the requirements. They’ll then assign your case a docket number and provide you with a stamped copy of the complaint. This stamped copy serves as proof that you have officially filed your claim.

There may be fees associated with filing a small claims complaint. The clerk will inform you of the applicable fees and provide instructions on how to pay them. Once your complaint is filed and the fees are paid, the court will schedule a hearing date and notify all parties involved.

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Prepare for the Small Claims Hearing

Organize all the relevant documents that support your claim. This may include contracts, receipts, photographs, emails, or any other evidence that can substantiate your case. Make sure to have multiple copies of each document, as you’ll need to give copies to the judge and the other party involved.

Take the time to review the court procedures. Familiarize yourself with the rules and regulations that govern small claims hearings in North Carolina. Understand the time limits for filing documents, the process for presenting evidence, and the expectations for behavior in the courtroom. Know what to expect and how the hearing will go.

Prepare a brief outline or summary of your case. This can help you stay organized and focused during the hearing. It should include key points, supporting evidence, and any legal arguments you wish to make. Practice presenting your case to a friend or family member, as this can help you become more comfortable and confident in explaining your side of the story.

Conclusion

If you want to file a small claim in North Carolina, your first step is to check your eligibility to file, gather all necessary documentation, complete the small claims complaint form, file the complaint with the court, and prepare for the small claims hearing. By following these steps, you’ll be well on your way to resolving your dispute in a small claims court. Good luck!

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