It is important to keep in mind that you will
receive only one opportunity to prove your case, and you must prepare
in advance for your hearing. If you are the plaintiff, it is your
job to prove that the defendant owes you money. You must also have
evidence to prove how much you believe the defendant owes you.
If you are a defendant and you filed a counterclaim you must prove
that the plaintiff owes you money on your counterclaim and you
must have evidence to prove how much you believe the plaintiff
Make sure you have all of the documents that you
need. Bring all papers that you believe will assist you in your
claim, like contracts, cancelled checks, bills, receipts, photographs
and letters. Remember:
it is your responsibility to prove that you are entitled to recover
and you must also prove the amount that you are entitled to recover.
sure you bring any physical evidence that you need. If you need
photographs, or wish to show the court an object to help prove
your claim make sure you bring them with you to court.
you bring any witnesses you wish to testify on your behalf and
prepare your questions before coming to court. Letters and affidavits
stating what your witnesses would say if they were present, though
considered by the court, normally do not carry as much weight
as if you had the witness present.
You should check in with the
clerk of small claims shortly before your case is scheduled.
Your case will be heard before the judge and
uncontested cases will be called first. Those cases which are contested
are called last due to the necessity of testimony and argument.
The plaintiff will have the first opportunity to tell their side
of the story. The defendant will then be given an opportunity to
tell their side of the story.
Small claims hearings can take anywhere
from ten to forty-five minutes. You should, however, be prepared
to stay longer if necessary. Be sure your documents are organized
before you come to court. Also, it is important that you have
your thoughts organized so you can explain the situation as clearly
and concisely as possible.
All of your statements should be brief
and to the point. Follow the instructions given to you by the
judge. Do not interrupt when the other side is testifying. Both
sides will be given an opportunity to speak.
At the conclusion
of the hearing, the judge will either announce his decision or
take the matter under consideration. In either case both parties
will receive a copy of the judge's decision.
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