Other Sources of Help
While the Office of the Commissioner of Insurance has jurisdiction over insurance-related matters, we cannot resolve every consumer complaint that we receive in the manner hoped for by the consumer. This is more common when the dispute is over a question of fact or value. If we are not able to resolve your dispute, you may try to pursue your case in small claims court or in another court of law.
Small Claims Court
If you have a complaint you have not been able to resolve, you may want to consider going to small claims court. Any individual or corporation doing business in Wisconsin can sue or be sued in small claims court.
While small claims court is limited to claims of $10,000 or less, you can forego trying to recover part of your claim and sue for only $10,000 if your damages are more than $10,000. Claims over $10,000 must be filed in a circuit court.
The rules for small claims court are simpler than the rules for other court proceedings. There are filing fees and other related fees which vary by county. If you win your case, you may be able to recover the filing fees from the other party. Although you generally do not need a lawyer, any party may choose to hire a lawyer. If the other party has a lawyer, your chances of winning may be better if you also have a lawyer.
If the party bringing the suit wins the case, the party who lost usually follows the court's decision without additional legal action. Sometimes, however, the losing party will not obey the decision. In these cases, the winning party may go back to court and ask for the order to be "enforced." Depending on local laws, the court may, for example, order property be taken by law enforcement officials and sold. The winning party will get the money from the sale, up to the amount they are owed. Or, if the person who owes the money receives a salary, the court may order the employer to garnish or deduct some money from each paycheck and give it to the winner of the lawsuit.
Small claims suits must be filed in the county that has jurisdiction over the matter. In most cases jurisdiction is determined by one or more of the following:
- Where the claim arose;
- Where the property which is the subject of the claim is located; or
- Where the defendant resides or does substantial business.
If your claim involves a consumer transaction which includes the purchase or lease of goods, property, or services, or a loan of money or credit for personal, family, household, or agricultural purposes, the suit may be filed in the county where:
- The consumer resides;
- The consumer made the purchase; or
- The collateral (property securing a loan) is located if it is a credit transaction.
Additional information and a Wisconsin Guide to Small Claims Court are available on the Wisconsin Court System’s Web site at www.wicourts.gov/about/pubs/circuit/smallclaimsguide.htm. If you wish to file a small claims suit, please contact the clerk of courts of the appropriate county.
Hiring an Attorney
If you need assistance in finding an attorney, you may call the State Bar's Lawyer Referral Hot Line at 1-800-362-9082 (in Madison 257-4666) (www.legalexplorer.com) or your County Bar Association.
OCI 51-051 (R 09/2011)