Preparing Your Court Case

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In court, small claims trial hearings may only last 10 to15 minutes. Since you will only have a few minutes in front of the judge, you will need to be organized. So start preparing for your day in court as soon as possible.

1. Plan what you are going to say.

Decide what your main points are. Try to think of what the other person might say and how you will answer. You can also talk to a small claims legal advisor or a lawyer before court.

How to tell your story in court:
Be quick and to the point, and stay calm. It is your job to PROVE your case. Here are some tips:

  • The first thing you need to say is why you are there. 

    • Tell the judge how you were affected by what the other person did, and 
    • Why it is their fault. 
  • Also explain why it is not your fault. 
  • Say what happened, in the order it happened. 
  • Group facts together. For example: "From April to August, I took the car in 10 times and he didn't fix the brakes." 
  • Practice telling your story. If you can, practice in front of friends or family.

2. Arrange to bring any papers or items that support your story. These are called "evidence."  Examples of evidence are:

  • Contracts 
  • Estimates (bring 3, if possible) 
  • Bills 
  • Photographs 
  • Diagrams that show how an accident happened 
  • Police reports 
  • The damaged object 

To learn more about using things as evidence, click here. 

NOTE: If you need papers that someone else has (other than the other side), you can fill out a subpoena Opens new window form (Form SC-107) and request these documents. To learn more about subpoenas, click here .

3. Arrange to bring witnesses who saw or heard what happened.

  • Don't bring people unless you know they will support you. 
  • Witnesses who are not friends or relatives may be more effective in proving your case. When the only witnesses are your friends and relatives, they should testify and present themselves in a professional, objective and calm manner.

4. You may need to get a sworn, written statement from an expert on the subject in your case. For example, a mechanic who looked at your car could provide an estimate of property damage relating to an accident.

  • To learn more about using people as evidence, click here.

If you don't speak English well:
Arrange to bring someone to court with you who can interpret for you. You want the judge to understand you.

  • You may ask the court to delay your hearing one time in order to obtain an interpreter.

REMEMBER: You can try to settle your case through mediation or other alternatives to the courts at any time.

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