Small Claims

en español>

When people have disputes about money that they cannot resolve by themselves, one of their options is to go to a “small claims” court to ask a judge to decide what should be done. In California, small claims courts usually hear cases that involve:

  • $10,000 or less, if the person suing is an individual or sole proprietorship;
  • $7,500 or less, if the case is about a person who was injured in a car accident and the owner and/or driver of the car was insured;
  • $5,000 or less, if the case is filed by businesses [other than sole proprietorships] or by government agencies.
NOTE:  If the claim is for more than the amount allowed in small claims court, the person or business may sue in the civil division Opens new window of the trial court.

Small claims courts are used by members of the public who want to sue someone who broke a contract, stole from them, or injured them or their property. Other reasons for suing in small claims court include recovering money for a faulty product or service. Small claims courts are also used by businesses and government agencies that want to collect payments from customers for unpaid debts.

In small claims court, the people involved may ask a lawyer for advice before they go to court, but cannot have a lawyer in the courtroom during the trial hearing.

A final small claims judgment has the same force as any other final decision by the court. That means that if the loser -- now called the "judgment debtor" -- fails to pay the judgment voluntarily, the money can be collected using normal collection techniques. These include asking the court to order an employer to take the money out of the debtor’s wages, or to order the sheriff to take some of the debtor’s property and sell it to pay off the debt.

In this section you will find information about what to do if:

Each topic will help you understand what to do:

BEFORE starting a small claims case

DURING the case if you are Suing

DURING the case if you are Being sued

AFTER the court enters a judgment in your case

Watch a video Opens new window about "Resolving Your Small Claims Case in the California Courts" with information about procedures, advisory services, and mediation for small claims cases. Available with English, Spanish, and Russian narration and subtitles.

The section also has answers for Frequently Asked Questions about small claims, and the forms that you will need for your case.

To get the information you need to get started, you can click here, or use the “drop down” menu at the left side of each page.

To view some short videos with general information about how California’s court system works, click here. Opens new window

To view some short videos about the basics of California’s small claims courts, click here. Opens new window




This website’s general information is very helpful for everyone in California.
To find your county court’s website to learn about extra forms or procedures, click here.


Did this information help you?  Tell us what you think.

If you want help finding what you need, you can email us at virtualselfhelp@contracosta.courts.ca.gov.

You will receive a response within one week.