What are the criteria for making a claim at a small claims court ? What is the time limit ?
Best bet is to go the local small claims courthouse and talk to someone there about your particular situation. But what I've learned through my experience in the small court claims system is below:
This is more of a civics question than anything else... but let's give it a shot.
DISCLAIMER - THIS IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE! I'M TELLING YOU WHAT I KNOW IN RELATION TO MY OWN EXPERIENCES IN SMALL CLAIMS COURT MATTERS IN THE PROVINCE OF BRITISH COLUMBIA, CANADA. ANY AND ALL QUESTIONS AND CLARIFICATIONS SHOULD BE MADE TO THE LOCAL SMALL CLAIMS COURT IN YOUR AREA.
First off, small claims courts were established to easily and quickly (relatively, on both counts) to deal with minor financial and other easily arbitrated disputes. In general, no lawyers are permitted in the courtroom - each side represents themselves in the dispute and the case is decided on the spot by a judge or other officer of the court (oftentimes lawyers who are not part of the official judiciary are the ones who hear cases).
Your best bet in pursuing this kind of information is to either go to the local courthouse and go to the kiosk for submitting a claim, or look up what resources you have online. For instance, I went to court to collect on a loan I had made to someone in the past who was not paying me back. I went to the website for the small claims court system for BC, found out how to make a claim, did so, and went through all the steps to finally collect my money.
Different court systems have different rules in place and various agencies to help in the preparation of making a claim and going to trial. But, in general, there are a few things that distinguish cases appropriate for small claims:
typically they are financial and the amount in question is limited to an amount (I believe in BC it was $5,000 but I could be wrong about that).
other cases can be heard - go to your local small claims court to find out what can be heard.
the typical statue of limitations is three years from the date of the incident/loan/etc.
Best of luck to you. Just remember that the system is in place so that you have a venue to have your complaint heard. It is a slow and painfully inefficient process but is there to help both parties resolve their differences on their own - and it's only if they can't that the court will step in.