How to File a Small Claims Suit in California

[This is a transcript is a result of automated audio transcription from the video posted below. For help from The Small Claims Lawyer, visit or call 888-632-6623. Grammatical errors may be present in the transcript below. This transcript is for informational purposes only and may not be relied on as legal advice.]

Hey everyone, this is attorney Brian Russ, the Small Claims Lawyer. I’m a California attorney helping people with California Small Claims cases, you may have seen my other videos. I’m part of the law firm Brian Russ law incorporated as my own firm. You’re one of the things I like to focus on with my small claims practice. My Small Claims firm is really helping people through the small claims process. I hear a lot of times that, you know, Small Claims should be easy. It should be straightforward. But the reality is it isn’t. It can get very complicated very quickly. And, you know, as much as I love the court system, I think the court system is is fundamentally fair, I think justice is delivered. You know, it’s a bureaucracy, and it is inconsistent, county, to county, department to department, courtroom to courtroom. And it’s really important to understand the intricacies of each individual court and each individual county to make sure you follow the local rules to make sure that you get one, you get your case in the door on time and to that once it’s in the door, you do it right. So the purpose of this video is to kind of explain the nuances of how to file a small claims lawsuit in California and kind of go through and share some of my experiences and what my key tips are for when you go make that initial filing. Now before we get much further, I have to give you a few disclaimers. The first disclaimer is that this video is not legal advice. I am an attorney. But this video is for informational purposes only it is not made for any particular person or any particular situation. It is informational only it is not legal advice.

Now, if you need legal advice, you need to retain an attorney to help you with your situation. Again, the purpose of this video is to let you know I’m here to help with small claims cases. You know, you can find another attorney to help you but if you need legal advice, you need to go to an attorney, don’t go to a legal document, prepare, don’t go to a paralegal, don’t go to you know some guy standing outside the courthouse telling you he can help you for 50 bucks, they’re not an attorney, you need an attorney to give you legal advice. Finally, you know, no attorney client relationship forms by viewing of your your viewing of this video, it’s for informational purposes only I don’t know who you are, and it’s not made for your case. And finally, this video is an advertisement, it should be considered an advertisement I sell my services, I most likely would like to talk to you about your case and see if maybe we can work together. So the extent this video can be considered an advertisement, it should be considered an advertisement. Now, the Small Claims lawsuit filing key points, giving you four or five key points here for filing your lawsuit against this just this is just filing, this is just getting the the dang thing in the door. Now I’m not telling you how to file the forms. I’m not telling you what to do after it’s been filed. This is just filing and I think what you’re gonna see is that it can be a complicated process. Now first thing is you want to make sure you file in the correct County, when you fill out your form. It’ll ask you, you know, well what it says something like, you know, where did the damage occur? Where did the incident occur or something like that. And then, you know, it’ll be asking you, you know, you need to file in the county where, where the thing happened most most likely. So, you know, if you were in a car accident, and now terrorists, you know, don’t go file in San Francisco County, you know that that’s not how this thing works, you need to make sure to file in the correct County. So even if you were traveling somewhere in California, you know, you’re from Sacramento, and something happens in San Diego, you know, you can’t be filing up in Sacramento because it’s the wrong County. It’s not where the thing happened. So So first thing first file on the correct county that clerk might might kick it, kick it back. I’m saying it’s not in the right county what I see more most time happens that you file to take your money you serve you pay somebody in the defendant comes and says, Hey, this isn’t the wrong county and you start the whole process over again. So make sure to file in the correct county to begin with, that’s really preliminary issue. Second thing is you need to know the local rules. And even as professional in this field, I tell you, the local rules are sometimes the most difficult things to deal with. Because, you know, here I file dozens of these cases. And I’m still surprised that you know, local county says no, you need to, you need to fax it in, or you need to mail it in, or you need to mail it in with three copies and a copy of the proposed judgment. And you know, you really need to know the local rules before you do any of this stuff. Just to make sure again, it doesn’t get kicked back. You know, especially if you’re coming up on the statute of limitations, you know, your time is of the essence. If you miss it, you miss it, man. So you need to know the local rules. Again, one of the benefits of working with my firm is that we’re the ones who figure out the local rules for you. Most likely, we already know the local rules. We have other cases in the county, we know how to do this stuff, you’ll quickly more efficiently get in the door and get this thing rolling. So yeah, so I mean, one of the key points is no local rules and you talk to any litigator anybody who works in any type of case in California across the nation, they’re gonna say local rules are incredibly important and sometimes they don’t make sense and they’re not consistent county county but their local rules and you got follow up. Next thing is when you file that, especially if you’re doing a physical filing, so that means you’re taking it to the court and you’re mailing it and make sure to provide multiple copies of the documents because the courts gonna keep one copy So if you say if you bring one copy you want to file, they say, okay, it’s filed. And then you’re like, no, how can I back they’re like, no, it’s our copy. So you gotta make sure to have multiple copies, generally, what I say is, is as provide two extra copies, so the court will keep one, and then you get one for yourself, and you get one to serve on the other party. So always make sure to provide multiple copies of the documents that you’re filing. Next thing, if you’re mailing it in, always, always, always provide a stamped envelope for return mail, self addressed stamped envelope for return mail, the court generally is not going to put together an envelope for you and pay your postage for you some courts in California, I know, they will say, hey, for an extra dollar or two, we’ll take care of it. Just Just Just give me your own stamped envelope return mail. Just do it yourself. And and it usually works out better that way. Again, you can call the local clerk, see what’s going on, and see if they want the stamped envelope or see if they do it some other way. But generally, what I found is that if you’re mailing something in, you need to provide a stamped envelope for return mail. Finally, you know, what I’ve seen recently is this advent of E filing. It’s a great boon. I know a lot of times for small claims cases, the courts will say if you’re if you’re self represented, if you’re pro PR pro se, then you don’t need to use the E filing process. If you’re filing as an attorney, then you need to use the E filing process. I love the E filing process, it’s a lot quicker. You know, rather than putting something in the mail, getting to the court Three days later, and then opening the mail and adding two days usually it’s same day or 48 hour turnaround time.

Also, what ends up happening with the E filing is that it’s just it’s just it’s just much easier to deal with cuz you’re not worrying about did I send it enough copies? Did I staple the right things that I paperclip the right things? You know, did I provide stamped envelope, so small claims case. So use e filing, if it’s available, there’s a couple different ways to do it. I know Sacramento County uses a PDF system where you fill out their PDF, put in your credit card information, hit submit and it goes in other counties use a green filing system or the E file system. There’s lots of different ways. You know, I think he filings just better, better for the environment better for everybody. But hey, like I said, you know, filing is just getting you in the door. It’s not even setting up your case. It’s not talking about your case after it’s done, or after it’s been filed, not serving. It’s not preparing evidence, not anything like that. But it is it is incredibly important. So one of the services my office provides is that we take care of the filing for you, we prepare all the paperwork, give it to you for signature, once it’s signed, we take care of getting it to the court and getting it filed, getting it done. Right. And it’s it’s, you know, makes life a lot easier for you lets you focus on other things. And that’s something that we can put ourselves behind. So if you want to work with us, you know, you know, give us a call. phone numbers up there. 888-632-6623 go to my website, the Small Claims Lawyer calm. We have some free resources available. You can you can grab those, and we’ll talk to you later. All right, bye.

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