Area of Law: Small Claims Court
Answer # 553
Preparing your caseRegion: Ontario Answer # 553
At the trial you will have an opportunity to explain your side of the issue and to respond to the claims of the other side. Before you go to court, you should have a good understanding of both sides of the case so that you can speak to the judge clearly and answer any questions that arise.
How to prepare what to say at court
After you understand your position and the position of the other side, you should develop a strategy to prove your side of the case. You can develop a strategy by organizing how you will present the facts, evidence, and what the law says about an issue. A strategy should not be complicated or fancy. It is the method you choose to help the judge understand the facts of your case and why you believe your side should win.
In thinking about your strategy, think about the facts from the judge’s point of view. The judge needs to know who was involved, what happened, when it happened, whose fault it was, and how much money was involved. If you can answer these questions clearly, then you are well on your way to having an organized case.
Use the facts to prove your case by telling the judge your story. You know more about the situation than the judge will need to hear. To help you decide what information to tell the judge, write down only the important things in the order that they happened. Then, look over these facts and take out anything that will not help the judge understand your position.
In terms of evidence, you may use written documents and/or have a witness testify. Examples of written documents that may be important are contracts, letters, invoices, receipts, photographs, hospital records and so on.
Examples of witness testimony that might be helpful are having someone explain the scene of an accident, or describe the damage to property. If possible, you should take photographs of the things that cannot be brought to court. The witness can then testify that the photograph correctly represents the real place or thing. A witness can only give evidence at trial about something they actually saw or heard or did. You should only bring a witness who can contribute something important to your side of the case.
Normally, you cannot bring evidence to the trial, unless copies of documents that will be used had been given to the other side at least 30 days before the trial. At trial you should bring the original documents, which may be entered by the court as evidence, and three copies (one for the judge, one for the other party, and one for yourself).
Another way of proving your side of the case is by telling the judge how the law has dealt with similar issues in the past. Because you do not need any special legal training to go to Small Claims Court, you do not have to present any law for your case. However, if you have consulted a lawyer, or done research, and have examples of how the law has dealt with similar cases, you may want to bring this up at the trial. If you plan to refer to specific cases, you should have copies of what you are referring to ready to give the judge and the other side.
During the trial you can usually refer to your notes to assist you. If you write out the order in which you want to present your case, you will be less likely to forget something. You may want to practise what you plan to say ahead of time with a friend or by yourself. The more prepared you are, the more effective you will be in proving your case to the judge.
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