While you are always allowed to contact an attorney when you have a legal question and need legal advice, there may be times when hiring an attorney to represent you in a legal matter may not be worth the expense to you. Cases which involve a small amount in controversy are usually classified as small claims cases and are typically filed in a small claims court. Every state has a small claims court, Maryland included. In a Maryland small claims case, you have the option to represent yourself in a claim for personal injury or property damages, or you may retain an attorney to assist you with your claim. This is not the case in every state. For example in a small claims case in California, you are not permitted to have a lawyer represent you in court.
Requirements: Small Claims Cases in Maryland
Small claims cases in the State of Maryland are handled in the District Courts. If you want to file a case in small claims court your claim must first meet the following requirements:
- your claim is for $5,000 or less
- you are only seeking money damages
- you are not planning on doing any discovery
There are several advantages to pursuing a claim in small claims court including:
- Court rules and procedure are much simpler
- Cases moves more quickly through the court system (hearing dates can be set within 60 days of when you file your case)
- Filing fees are much less expensive in a small claims court
Maryland has Self-Help Centers in the District Courts as well as a statewide Maryland Courts Self-Help Center. Both of these centers provide limited legal services free of charge that small claims litigants can use when preparing for their case. In addition, Maryland has several online legal resources that those representing themselves can use in preparing for their day in court.
Your Day In Court
If you have ever seen an episode of Judge Judy then you have seen a small claims case in action. In real life, the process is somewhat less dramatic but the essential elements are the same. Each side presents evidence to the judge, either through relevant documents or witness testimony, and the judge will then make a ruling based on the law and the evidence he or she has reviewed. This ruling, or judgment, is binding on the parties and the prevailing party can enforce the judgment and collect the money they are owed.
If you disagree with the decision of the District Court judge, the ruling can be appealed if the appeal is submitted in a timely fashion. If you want to file an appeal, you have 10 days to file a motion for a new trial after the Court makes its decision. You may also file an appeal in the Circuit Court within 30 days.
If you are considering filing a small claims case in Maryland, there are a multitude of free resources available to you online and through the court self-help centers. However, it is good practice to first consult with an experienced personal injury attorney who can offer guidance on the right path to take based on the circumstances of your case. If you or someone you love has been injured, please contact the team at Gilman & Bedigian. We offer a free consultation during which our experienced staff will asses the circumstances of your situation and instruct you on the best way to proceed.