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Objective information on small claims judgement collection

States — A Closer Look at Small Claims
State rules for collecting your judgment

ILLINOIS

The Law

The law in Illinois regarding small claims court comes from Illinois Supreme Court Rules, No. 281-289. According to the rules, a small claim is defined as a civil action based on either tort or contract for money not in excess of $10,000 exclusive of interests and costs.

Monetary Limit

The monetary limit in Illinois was increased to $10,000 in 2005. Any individual or corporation doing business in the state may sue or be sued. Any individual under the age of 18 may sue but may require the appointment of a guardian to do so.

The suit must be filed where the defendant resides or where the injury occurred.

The interest rate on judgments in Illinois is 9% annually until the debt is paid.

Commencing a Claim in Illinois

A small claims action can be commenced by paying a filing fee to the clerk of courts. The fee in Illinois is determined by the population of the county and as set by the court. Along with the fee attach a short and simple complaint which will include: the plaintiff’s name, address, and phone number; the defendant’s name and place of residence or regular place of employment; nature and amount of the claim; and dates, relevant facts, and copies of pertinent documents.

Service is in person or by certified or registered mail and requires a $2.00 fee to the clerk for each service.

You claim will be assigned a number as an identifier and the hearing will be scheduled between 14 and 40 days after summons is issued.

Defendant’s Response/Counterclaim

Once you have been served the notice of the claim against you several options. You can admit you owe the plaintiff all of the amount claimed; deny you owe the plaintiff all or part of the amount claimed by filing an “Appearance” with the clerk and mailing a copy to the plaintiff; file a counterclaim against the plaintiff called a if you believe the plaintiff owes you money in connection with the reason he claims you owe him money; and lastly, you can try to settle out of court.

That counterclaim should not exceed the $10,000 limit; but if it does then the case can be removed to another court — a formal court.

Attorneys

In general, attorneys are allowed if you wish to have one. If the other side is going to be represented by a lawyer, you may decide to obtain one if you feel your chances will be better. If a corporation which is the plaintiff must be represented by an attorney. If however, the corporation is the defendant it is acceptable for them to be represented by a company officer or manager.

Additionally, jury trials are allowed if requested by either party but there will be no discovery. The jury will have 6 members unless requested otherwise and the fee shall be $12.50 — for 12 jurors the cost would be $25.

Statute of Limitations

In Illinois, there is no specific statute of limitations for small claims court. However, the time limits are based on the type of case you are bringing:


  • Personal injury — 2 years (most of these will be heard in other courts
  • Property damage — 5 years
  • Sales contracts — 4 years in accordance with the UCC
  • Oral contracts — 5 years
  • Written contracts — 10 years

There may be others not listed here.

Requirement for Mediation

Courts in some jurisdictions in Illinois may require mediation, arbitration, or other form of settlement discussions prior to the trial date. If there is no agreement, the trial will go on as scheduled.

Appealing a Small Claims Decision in Illinois

Either party may request reconsideration by the court or file an appeal to a higher court. That appeal will review only the law and will not consider the facts of the case and you will not be able to introduce any new evidence.

These appeals must be filed within 30 days. Even if you chose not to have an attorney at the original hearing you may choose to have one at the appeal.

Collecting your Judgment in Illinois

The Illinois court just like most other small claims courts can award you a judgment, but it cannot collect it for you. The court can set up installment plans for payment that do not exceed three years, but again, they cannot ensure they are paid.

In Illinois, the court will order the defendant to file a disclosure within 15 days which includes: (At least this will give you a head start in your collection efforts)


  • Name and address
  • Employer and the employer's address
  • Real property owned by the debtor
  • Cash on hand
  • Financial institutions in which the debtor has funds

Judgments are renewable in Illinois so they can be on record indefinitely. All garnishments and liens against personal and real property require forms and fees. Please check with your county court to get proper forms and filing fees as these differ and change often. If you have questions or need explanations, you should consult an attorney.

An interesting note about Illinois: Although there’s no debtor’s prison, it’s possible to wind up in jail in a collection case. But, not because you owe money, or can’t pay it. Jail can only happen if you’re able to pay, and refuse to, or if you miss a court-ordered court date.

For a more complete list of methods to collect the judgement you are entitled to, see our General Methods for Collecting Your Judgment article in our collection of articles on judgment collection resources. The methods are generally the same in all states, though the procedures you need to follow may differ in different jurisdictions.

Back to States — A Closer Look at Small Claims - articles on how to collect your judgement by state

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Tip of the Week

September 27, 2010

If you have been awarded a judgment, waited the 30 days required, sent a demand letter giving the debtor a time limit for paying his/her debt; what should you do if you still have no money? You know that the court can do little, but before you take steps to garnish wages or bank accounts, consider suggesting negotiation or mediation if the debtor gives any impression that they want to settle the matter.

More tips...

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