What happens at my Small Claims Court trial?
Question & AnswerWhat happens at my Small Claims Court trial?
4. Go to your trial
At the trial you must prove your claim. You do this by presenting evidence. The evidence must relate to the facts that you need to prove. Evidence includes the documents you filed with the court and your witnesses.
The trial starts with you giving an opening statement. In your opening statement, tell the judge:
- a summary of the issues in your case
- what you’re asking for
- the evidence you will be relying on
Do not present evidence in your opening statement.
The can go right after you, or wait until it’s their turn to present their case.
You and your witnesses give evidence under . This means you promise to tell the truth. This is called “testifying”.
You will likely be the main witness for your case. When you testify, it’s best to start at the beginning and tell the judge about the events in the order they happened. It’s a good idea to make notes before your trial about all the things you want to talk about.
If you have other witnesses, you can ask them questions. This is called “examination-in-chief” or “”. The questions must not tell the witness what you want them to say. These questions often start with who, what, where, when, why, how, or please describe.
Questions that tell the witness what you want them to say are called “leading questions”. For example:
- Non-leading question: “What did you see in the apartment?”
- Leading question: “The apartment looked seriously damaged, didn’t it?”
Leading questions are not allowed in direct examination.
The defendant can also ask the witnesses questions. This is called “cross examination”. Leading questions are allowed during cross-examination. The purpose of cross-examination is to test how true and reliable the witness’ answers are.
The judge might also ask you and your witnesses questions.
The defendant’s evidence
The defendant can also testify and present evidence. They may want to try to show that:
- they did not do what you say they did; or
- they have paid you what they owe you.
If the defendant has witnesses, you can cross-examine them. The judge can also ask them questions.
After you and the defendant have presented your evidence, you each give a closing statement.
In your closing statement, give the judge a summary of your evidence and tell them why you should get what you’re asking for. Your reasons should be based on:
- what the witnesses said
- documents used as evidence
- rules and laws
You go first, then the defendant. You may have a last chance to speak, if the defendant brings up anything new in their closing statement.