What Can You Do To Prepare For Trial?

What should I do to prepare for a small claims court trial?

Court Trial Date & Order


So you have your court trial date. What can you do to improve your chances? The better preparation you carry out, the better chance you give yourself at trial.

When notifying you of the court trial date, the court should say what you need to do about documents and evidence in advance. Check the court order carefully. The court will usually order the following:

“Each party shall, at least 14 days before the date fixed for the final hearing, file and serve on every other party copies of all documents (including any expert’s report) on which he / she intends to rely at the hearing”

This means that you must send to court and your opponent, all the documents you want to rely on at the court trial. The documents are likely to be put on the court file for the Judge in exactly the same state as you send them, so spend some time getting them in order and presenting them well.

Put The Papers In Order Before Sending Them


If you send the papers in a logical order, it will be much easier for the Judge to find his way around them. A Judge with a random pile of papers, may not be inclined to work out what is in them and may miss a document you think is important to your case. The Judge may only have a very short amount of time before the hearing starts, to read what the case is about and look at the documents. Get the information and documents in order so that he is more likely to see them. As a suggestion, put the documents into categories for example:

  • section 1 letters and emails (in date order)
  • section 2 contract
  • section 3 photographs, etc

It depends upon what the dispute is about as to what documents are relevant and you want before the Judge.


Witness Statements


witness statements get our guide for more tipsSometimes the Judge will order that you must also file and serve a witness statement in advance, rather than simply allowing oral evidence at the court trial.

  • The witness statements need to deal with all the issues the court will have to decide on the day. It is best to read the claim form and defence whilst drafting the statements, to ensure that you deal with each point within it. The Judges tend to be fairly relaxed in the small claims court about the technical rules of witness statements, such as hearsay. You aren’t expected to know the legal rules about evidence.
  • You should refer to documents within the statement. The Judge is more likely to look at documents identified in a witness statement first, so if you think a document is important, make specific reference to it.
  • The witness statement should be in the words of the person making it.
  • The statement must be honest and accurate. If the contents of a statement are untrue, you could be held in contempt of court, which is a criminal offence.

A witness statement should be signed and dated by the person making it, under a paragraph which reads as follows:

“I believe that the facts stated in this witness statement are true.”

This known as a statement of truth, which you will already have signed once when either completing the claim form or defence.

“Ensure you spend enough time preparing your documents and witness evidence. It will give you a better chance of succeeding at the court trial.”