Starting a Small Claims Case

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Considerations Before Filing a Small Claims Case

If you are unsure whether you need to file:

Before filing a claim, consider contacting the other person or business to solve the problem by coming to an agreement or settlement. If successful, you will save considerable time, effort and expense. Call or write the other party to explain your position and the settlement you are seeking.

Make sure that the defendant has money, income or property so your judgment will be collectible. If a person does not have the money, income or property, there is no legal way for the court to get you the money you are owed even though a judgment has been entered.

If you would like to see what Small Claims court is like, consider going to observe court for a day. All Small Claims court hearings are open to the public and self-represented litigant court calls are held in C-403. 

If you choose to file:

Make sure you are filing in the correct county:

Generally, you must file your Small Claims action in the county where
1) the defendant resides, or
2) the events happened, which you believe gives you the right to sue, e.g., where the accident occurred, contract was signed or leased premises located.

A corporation is considered to reside in any county where it does business or has an office. (735 ILCS 5/2-102). Filing the claim in the wrong county may result in the case being dismissed. If you are not sure which county could be the correct location for your Small Claims action, consider talking to a lawyer.

Make sure you are suing the correct person/corporation:

Any person 18 years or older may file a Small Claims case. Persons under 18 must be represented by a licensed attorney.

Persons and businesses must sue and be sued in their correct legal name. Before filing your lawsuit, check for the correct spelling, address and phone number of the defendant. If you sue an incorporated business, you must use its legal name which may be different from the name you know it by. You can find out if a business is a corporation and obtain its legal name by searching for a company’s Certificate of Good Standing online at Note the name and address of the registered agent, who is one of the persons upon whom summons can be served.

If you intend to sue the owner of an unincorporated business which operates under an assumed name (advertising name, such as “Action Plumbing”), you can find out the name of the owner (whom you must name as the defendant) by consulting the Assumed Name Index in the Office of the County Clerk (located in the lobby of the 1st floor of the Administration Building).

**Remember, a judgment against a defendant who is named incorrectly cannot be collected.

Filing your case:

If you have determined that Lake County is the proper place to file your claim, obtain and complete the forms to file a Small Claims court action. Proceed to the Filing and Serving a Small Claims Complaint page to find instructions for filling out forms and serving your complaint and summons.