How Do I Improve My Chances in Small Claims Court?
A Legal Case always has Risks and Potential Pitfalls. For the Best Likelihood of Success, Thorough Case Preparation and Presentation are Imperative. Knowledge of Procedure and Applicable Law as well as Skilled Advocacy are Necessary.
Understanding How to Prepare Your Best Case For Success Within Small Claims Court Litigation
Cases in Small Claims Court proceed much different than is often presumed as what happens in Small Claims Court is far from what is portrayed on television court shows. In Ontario, matters in the Small Claims Court are handled with formalities within the process as well as in the courtroom. With this said, the strict nature of compliance with procedural rules is somewhat relaxed for laypeople; however, the process can still be very daunting for a layperson.
For Your Best Likelihood to Succeed in Small Claims Court Be Sure:
- To learn the proper procedures as per the Rules of the Small Claims Court including the requirements for preparing official forms and the various rules regarding the disclosure of evidence documents, among various other concerns;
- To learn the rules of civility and the formal conduct required so to present oneself with the decorum expected including when to stand for the Judge, when to bow for the Judge, what to wear in court, among other things;
- To know the substantive law applicable to the case meaning the law specific to the relevant legal issues;
- To obtain the best quality evidence, such as an expert witness report, among other things, as may be applicable, as proof of the facts that must be established as per the law specific to the relevant legal issues;
- To ensure that all necessary witnesses will be prepared and in attendance and to ensure attendance by issuing a Summons to any witnesses that may be hesitant (which may be important even if the witness promises to attend);
- To learn as much as possible about the opposing parties in the case including personality characteristics that may be strengths to take heed of or weaknesses to make benefit of.
- To prepare a thorough checklist and worksheet for use at Trial so to help ensure that all critical witness questions are asked and that all evidence documents are presented;
- To stay unemotional and thereby able to remain focused on presenting the facts and avoiding of unnecessary drama;
- To avoid believing that a Small Claims Court case will be simplistic in both the procedural rules as well as in the law applicable to the issues in dispute; and
- To carefully consider experienced professional representation for assistance in organizing and preparing and as your advocate in the courtroom.
Carefully Research the Legal Principles as Applicable to Your Specific Case Issues
For an understanding of the law applicable to your specific legal issue, this United Legal Services website may be a very helpful and useful resource. Also, when researching the law, including statutes and precedent case decisions, the Canadian Legal Information Institute (CanLII) website provides thousands upon thousand of webpages containing legal information that addresses almost any issue.
For the best likelihood of success in Small Claims Court, avoid presuming simplicity or informality. The Small Claims Court is a genuine legal forum with a high level of formality and decorum. Both the procedures, and thus procedural law, as well as the specific legal issues, and thus the substantive law, hold significant sophistication despite perception that Small Claims Court may be otherwise. Ultimately, for the best likelihood of a positive result, be knowledgeable, be organized, be prepared, and be ready.