Top 8 Tips To Prepare For Your Small Claims Trial
You have a better chance of winning your small claims case if you are well prepared for your trial. From filing your documents with the court to going before the judge, here are 8 tips to prepare for your small claims trial. So, without further ado, let’s dive into this blog and learn some of the things you need to know about small claims trials.
1. File your evidence with the court at least 21 days before the trial
If you want to use documents as evidence, you must file the originals with the court at least 21 days before the day of the trial. This could be an invoice, email, contract, or expert report that you want to present to the judge to convince him or her that you are right. You can send the documents by mail (registered mail) or drop them off in person. If you forget to file a document before the trial, the judge may refuse to see it.
2. Take time off work for the entire day of the trial
It is a good idea to plan to be away from work for the entire day of your trial. You don’t know how long you will have to be in court. It is possible that your trial will not start at the time indicated on the notice to appear. Many trials are scheduled at the same time. You may have to wait in the courtroom while other people present their cases.
3. Contact your witnesses to prepare them
Make sure that your witnesses will be in court on the day of the trial, especially if you have an expert witness who must explain technical elements to the judge (e.g., a building inspector in a hidden defect case). Contact your witnesses to remind them why they must come and speak before the judge on the day of the trial. Take the opportunity to refresh their memory: it can take several months between the events they must talk about and the trial.
4. Have your witnesses sign a written statement (if necessary)
Your witnesses can sign a “written statement of testimony” to avoid having them come to court on the day of the trial. You must file the witness’s signed statement in the court file at least 21 days before the day of the trial. However, the opposing party may still require the witness to be present on the day of trial to ask questions.
5. Be prepared to explain your story to the judge
Be prepared to explain your story in chronological order. The judge does not know it as well as you do. You need to be clear and focus on the important aspects. The clearer you are, the more convincing you will be. Here are some tips for doing this:
- Write an outline of what you will tell the judge in chronological order
- Mention only the information the judge needs (do not mention unnecessary details)
- Place your supporting documents in the same order as your plan (e.g., invoice, expert report, etc.)
- Be prepared to explain to the judge why your documents support your story
- For more information on how to prepare your presentation to the judge.
6. Get legal information about your case
If you go to court, it is because you have legal arguments to make. The judge is there to apply the law. So you need to know the legal arguments that support your claim. Many resources offer free legal information, for example:
- Our article on hidden defects in a building
- The Justice Centre in your area
7. Wear clean clothes and be polite on the day of the trial
Dress neatly on the day of your trial. At a minimum, you should wear a clean shirt and clean pants. You must also speak in “you” and respect the decorum in the courtroom (e.g., turn off your cell phone). It is the judge who calls the shots and asks the questions. Let the judge do this. You may address the judge as Mr. or Mrs. Judge. Throughout the hearing, stay calm. You must remain polite and refrain from showing emotion during the trial.
8. Arriving Early and Sitting in the Courtroom
Arrive early. You should not be late. Your trial could start without you if you are not there when it is your turn. Don’t take that chance. Sit in the room indicated on the notice to attend. There will probably be several other people in the room. You should wait your turn. You can use this time to watch how others behave during their trial.
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