Small claim courts are a more simplified and basic version of the usual civil court proceeding. The rules and procedures followed by these courts make it an ideal option for certain limited claims and cases where the damage calculation is simple. However, before you file a claim in these courts, it is essential to understand what is punitive damages, whether or not your case can be brought in small claim courts and how damages are calculated in such courts.
Many states have limitations regarding the type of actions that can be brought in small claims. Domestic disputes that are generally presented in a family court, some civil torts and criminal cases cannot be filed in small claims. In addition, damages such as injunctive relief, punitive damages etc. cannot be obtained in small claims.
Actual economic damages
Property damage, unpaid rent, small contract issues, minor injuries are examples of small claim cases. These cases can be brought under the small claim because of the economic damages in such cases. Medical bills and lost wages are other types of economic damages in civil suits. Expectation damages because of breach of contract are another example of easily quantifiable damages.
Non-economic damages are the damages that are awarded for things like pain and suffering and so they are comparatively not as easily quantifiable as the economic damages. Juries generally tend to exercise wide discretion for awarding non-economic damages in regular civil courts. Majority of the states have caps on the total amount that can be awarded. In small claims, non-economic damages are hardly ever awarded as such claims have negligible non-economic damages and because there is no jury in such claims.
Small claim courts do not permit awarding punitive damages in most states. This is another major restriction on the method adopted for calculating damages in small claim courts. If the defendant inflicts an injury intentionally, then punitive damages can be awarded in civil courts. By filing in small claims instead of civil courts in case of intentional injury, the plaintiff is practically waiving off his right to receive punitive damages.
Before deciding where to file your lawsuit, it is important that you understand what is punitive damages, if you are liable to receive these damages and such factors. Go through online legal resources to know more about small courts and their rules and procedures. Consult an experienced attorney for his advice on the best procedure.Google+