If someone owes you money then you are entitled to that money. Hopefully you can work it out without going to court. However, if you can’t, then it might be time to file an unpaid debt lawsuit. You can file lawsuits against individuals or companies in small claims court in order to recoup money owed you.
Before You Go To Court
Going to court isn’t fun. Most people find it stressful. It’s time-consuming and it can be frustrating. As someone owed money, this is both bad news and good news for you. It’s bad news if you do have to take someone to court to get your money. But it’s good news because they likely want to avoid court and might work things out with you before it gets to that point.
Before you go to court, try these things:
- Ask the person to work with you on the unpaid debt. Stay calm.
- Work with a mediator to resolve any issues between the two of you regarding the debt.
- Send a letter outlining the debt owed. Explain that you are planning to initiate an unpaid debt lawsuit if they don’t comply.
If those things don’t work then you will want to consider going to small claims court. Small claims court is for small amounts of money – typically under $10,000 owed by an individual or $5000 owed by a business, although the amount varies from state to state. If you’re owed more than this then you’ll have to take your unpaid debt lawsuit to civil court, which requires a different process. It’s also important to manage your stress levels during this time. You can try some of these stress-relieving solutions from BetterHelp: https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/stress/how-does-stress-affect-the-body-symptoms-and-solutions/
Preparing for Court
Once you’ve decided that you’re going to file an unpaid debt lawsuit, here are the things that you need to do:
- Speak with an attorney. This does cost you money and will eat into what you’re owed. Some people say you can skip this for small claims court. However, it’s usually the quickest way to figure out all of the things that you need to do in regards to this lawsuit.
- Determine who you need to sue. This can be more complicated than it seems. For example, if someone owes you money from a car accident, you may need to sue the person driving the car as well as the person who owns the car.
- Determine where you need to sue. Each county has its own small claims court. Sometimes it’s straightforward but if you and the individual live in different counties, or if the reason you’re owed money took place somewhere else, then you might need to do some digging.
- Fill out the small claims court forms. This is where your attorney can really help. But if you’re doing it on your own, make sure that you complete all necessary plaintiff and defendant forms.
- Gather all documents related to the money owed. For example, an incident report about a car accident. Include a copy of the letter you sent the individual requesting payment.
Going to Court
If you have done all of your prep work then going to court for an unpaid debt lawsuit is the easy part. Of course, it can be intimidating. Plan out what you want to tell the judge. Bring all of your documents. Once you’re in court, then you can present your case.
If the judge agrees with you, they’ll issue an order that the other person must pay you the owed money. However, there’s something that you should know: that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get your money right away. If the other person doesn’t have the money, they can’t pay you. They may face court consequences. Oftentimes the judgment is enough to get your payment, but that’s not always the case. You may have to take further action such as asking the court to garnish wages.
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Kathryn Vercillo is a professional writer with more than a decade of experience writing about healthy living and personal finance. She lives in San Francisco, where she has learned to maximize frugal living tips in order to thrive as a freelancer in one of the nation’s most expensive cities. When she’s not writing, she’s exploring the city on foot with her rescue dog. Learn more about her at www.kathrynvercillo.com. Kathryn also writes about saving money with coupons over at GroceryCouponGuide.com .