Cape justice blog logo

Key Steps to Take before Going to Small Claims Court in New York

Discover the world of civil cases, learn about your rights, and explore inspiring stories of resilience and justice in everyday life

From an attorney’s perspective, here are some key steps to take before going to small claims court in New York so you can feel more prepared, confident, and empowered to navigate the legal process effectively.


One of the key steps prior to going to small claims court is to document everything. If you want to prevail in your dispute, it is critical to have tangible evidence of the dispute and your position within the dispute. It is important to gather and organize all relevant documents, including contracts, emails, receipts, invoices, and any other evidence pertaining to the case. The more comprehensive the documentation, the stronger your case will be.

Understand Your Case Thoroughly Under New York Law (really well)

Another step prior to filing in court should be to familiarize yourself with the law. The internet has a ton of free resources to understand the laws within New York and your specific dispute. Understanding whether or not you have a valid legal argument is a critical step prior to filing your case. In addition, it is important to take the time to review the facts of your case to understand the potential strengths and weaknesses, as well as any legal theories or arguments that may apply. It is important to have a clear understanding of your rights and obligations in the matter.


Key steps to take before going to small claims court in New York


Send a Demand Letter: A New York Small Claims Pre-Step

Prior to filing, if you have not done so previously, you may want to consider sending the opposing party a Demand Letter. This is a formal communication which outlines your grievances and gives the other party an opportunity to settle the matter outside of court. In some cases, this may lead to a resolution without the need for litigation. The sending of a demand letter leads to one of the best steps to try to resolve the matter without initiating litigation– Alternative Dispute Resolution. It is important to explore the possibility of resolving the dispute through alternative dispute resolutions such as mediation or negotiation before proceeding to court. Alternative dispute resolution methods can often save time, money, and unnecessary stress for all parties involved.

Prepare your case

If you are unable to settle your matter through the use of negotiation, it is important to prepare for the eventual litigation. Besides documents and evidence, it can also be extremely helpful to your case if you have a witness in your case. If you have a witness who can provide testimony in support of your case, it is important to ensure they are prepared to testify effectively. By reviewing their statements, clarifying any inconsistencies, and discussing the importance of truthfulness and clarity in their testimony, you can ensure that any witness you bring to the hearing will be an asset to your case.

Understand the Small Claims Process in New York

The last step prior to going to court would be to familiarize yourself with the process. If you are going to place the resolution of your matter in the hands of a judge, it is important to understand the process. You need to understand what you can and cannot sue for in small claims court in New York, as well as the procedural requirements to get your case heard by a judge. It is important to familiarize yourself with courtroom procedures, expectations, and legal rights.