|Q.||Someone owes me money. Where can I file suit?|
|A.||Your question really has two parts. Where you can file suit is a question of the proper court division and also a question of venue.
Proper Court Division:
Disputes up to $5000 can be brought in small claims court, which is a division of the District Court. These cases are heard by magistrates.
Disputes up to $10,000 can be filed in District Court. These cases are tried before a District Court Judge or jury, but may be first sent to arbitration.
Disputes over $10,000 are filed in Superior Court. These cases are tried before Superior Court Judges or a jury.
In which county to file your suit depends on a number of factors, including where the dispute arose and where the parties reside. Before filing any action consult a lawyer to determine venue.
In small claims cases, however, the action must be brought in the county where the defendant resides.
|Q.||Must I hire an attorney to file a lawsuit on my behalf?|
|A.||An individual can represent him or herself (pro se), but proceeding without a lawyer is not recommended as the law is complicated and there are many time limits and rules that must be complied with to succeed in your case. |
|Q.||I have just been sued, what do I do?|
|A.||Contact a lawyer immediately. Depending upon the type of lawsuit you may have to file a response or answer. Failure to file your answer in the time period set forth by law, may result in a judgment being entered against you by default. |
|Q.||I cannot afford a lawyer, and do not want to represent myself. What can I do?|
|A.||If you are charged with a crime you may be entitled to a lawyer paid for by the State of North Carolina. For more information about the criminal process see Understanding the Criminal Process.|
If you are a defendant in a civil case you are not entitled to a lawyer paid for by the State, but you may be entitled to free legal services from one of the legal services programs across the State or you may be able to find a lawyer to assist you by contacting the North Carolina Bar Association at 1.800.662.7660. For more information please see Understanding the Civil Process.
|Q.||If I win my case can I get the other side to pay my attorney’s fees?|
|A.||It depends upon the type of case; there is no automatic right to attorney’s fees in a civil case. |
|Q.||What can I do if I don’t like the outcome in my case?|
|A.||You can appeal the decision of the judge or jury. For small claims cases the appeal is to District Court. For most other cases, the appeal is to the North Carolina Court of Appeals. |
|Q.||Do all civil cases go to trial?|
|A.||No. If the case is not dismissed or settled, some cases can go through alternative dispute resolution. Depending on the type of case some counties (but not all) may send a case to arbitration or mediation.
In some counties there is also mediation for child custody cases.
|Q.||Why don’t all counties have alternative dispute resolution?|
|A.||Most of these began as pilot programs, and funding is not currently available to provide staff and support statewide. |