When it comes to personal injury claims (e.g. dog bites, car accidents), there are many factors that determine how to get the best result.
One claims are relatively minor (fender bender with pain for a couple weeks and minimal chiropractic bills). These claims, if not settled favorably with the insurance adjuster, are often best resolved in Small Claims Court. In California, an individual can sue in small claims court for up to $10,000. The process is pretty simple, fast and neither side is permitted a lawyer at the trial. (Think Judge Judy or The Peoples Court).
With more moderate injuries, California has a Limited Civil Court that has limits of $25,000. The procedures are more formal and very similar to regular civil court and most people will benefit from using a lawyer as the defendant is almost always represented by an attorney hired by the defendant’s insurance company. Limited Civil has some procedures to reduce the cost of trial and simplify the preparations for trial (called civil discovery)
Unlimited Civil claims are just as they sound, unlimited. It is best suited for claims between $25,000 to $10,000,000. The Code of Civil Procedure allows for many different types of motions and civil discovery. The cases can take more than a year, but often settle earlier, sometimes at mediation. A lawyer is almost always needed in unlimited civil cases as judges will hold people representing themselves to the same standard as lawyers.