Small Claims Courts are courts created to adjudicate disputes not worth an exorbitant amount of money. Small Claims Courts exist throughout the United States, and there is generally a cap on the amount of compensation a claimant can receive. Previously, the monetary cap for awarded compensation from a Small Claims Court in New York City was $5000. However, the Legislature of New York recently passed Senate Bill S6417 which increases the cap on damaged that could be awarded. New York City Small Claims Courts can now award victims with up to $10,000 in monetary compensation.
Small Claims Courts operate in a markedly different manner than the rest of the courts in the New York State System. For one, claimants tend to represent themselves; further, Small Claims Courts are designed to afford a legal remedy to people who cannot afford an attorney, but still need to dispute a claim. The specific aim of Small Claims Courts, is to reduce the cost of litigating a dispute and provide an avenue for claimants to resolve minor disputes.
Therefore, New York City’s Small Claims Courts work to accommodate their litigants to the fullest extent possible. One such example is the fact that NYC Small Claims Courts are the only New York City courts open at night; the schedule is specifically tailored to afford a remedy of legal recovery to those busy during the days. However, critics still found the previous Small Claims Court system to be flawed.
They claimed a cap on compensation of $5000 from New York City Small Claims Courts was inadequate. They pointed out that legal disputes often end up costing well more than $5000, even when an attorney is not required for litigation. According to State Senator Michael Ginaris, who sponsored Bill S6417 in the State Senate, the new cap on small claims compensation “will make it easier for people to achieve justice in relatively minor disputes without needing to hire an attorney”: the legislation is an illustration of “basic fairness” being “signed into law.”
While, the new cap of $10,000 for Small Claims Court compensation has already taken effect, it only applies to New York City. The cap for small claims in cities in New York other than NYC remains at $5000. The cap for awarded compensation for small claims in towns and villages in New York remains at $3000.
If you are interested in initiating a lawsuit within New York City’s Small Claims Court, you should go to “the Small Claims Court Clerk’s office in the proper county and fill out a statement of claim,” according to nycourts.gov. if you need further assistance, there are “civil court help centers [that] provide free walk-in services to litigants who are not represented by an attorney and have cases pending in the Civil Court of the City of New York.” These attorneys do not provide explicitly legal advice, but they help provide claimants with information on how to get the lawsuit rolling, how to answer cases, how to handle courtroom procedure, etc. More information on civil court help centers, which often also house volunteer attorneys willing to give legal advice, can be found at this link.
Personal injury attorneys are limited in how they can assist Small Claims Court claimants. However, it would still be wise to speak with one before initiating a small claims suit, stemming from an injury sustained through no fault of your own. A personal injury attorney will know if your claim is worth more than $10,000; if a claim is worth more than $10,000, Small Claims Court is the wrong method of litigation, as it would limit any possible recovery, regardless of the circumstances, to $10,000.
Thus, regardless of how much you think your claim might be worth, If you or a loved one have been injured through no fault of your own you should still reach out to an experienced personal injury lawyer. For a free consultation from Zalman, Schnurman, & Miner, contact our firm through email at email@example.com or over the phone at 1-800-Lawline (212-668-0059).