How long does the Small Claims Court process take?
Updated: Jun 5
Thinking about suing in Small Claims Court but want to know how long it is going to take to resolve the lawsuit? Most small claims cases take 2-3 months from start to finish. The typical small claims court case takes three steps: (1) File the Lawsuit, (2) Serve the lawsuit, and (3) Attend the Hearing.
Small Claims Court in General
In California, small claims courts were set up as a quick and efficient forum to resolve disputes.
Here are some quick small claims court facts:
Small Claims Court Limits. An individual or sole proprietor can sue for $10,000 or less and a corporation or LLC can sue for $5,000 or less.
Costs. Depending on how much you are suing for, it costs $30- $75 to file a case.
Types of Cases that can be filed in Small Claims. So long as there isn't another court better suited to hear the case, then the lawsuit can be filed in small claims. The most common types of small claims cases in California Small Claims Court are: Landlord/Tenant disputes over the security deposit, Landlord/Tenant disputes over early termination of the lease, unpaid rent, roommate disputes, disputes over loans, contracts (written and oral), auto accidents, disputes over auto repairs, disputes over remodeling or home repairs, damage caused to property, and unpaid bills.
Once you file your case...
Once you file your case, you will get a hearing date scheduled anywhere between 20-70 days later. During this time you want to notify the person you have sued that they have been sued. This is called "serving."
During this time, you can try and negotiate with the other party to settle your case! You may have a higher chance of reaching a settlement once the case has been filed.
The Small Claims Court Hearing
During the small claims court hearing, a judge may tell the parties who won and who lost. Other times, a judge chooses to review the evidence after the hearing and notify the parties later on of who won and who lost. When a judge chooses to wait until after the hearing, the judge's decision will be mailed a few weeks later.
Collecting your winnings after the hearing
Once you win your California Small Claims Court case, the losing party usually pays within 30 days of when the judge's decision was mailed. This is called a judgment.
Once you receive payment, you are required to file Acknowledgment of Satisfaction of Judgment (Form SC-290).