In this article, we cover the three stages of successfully suing someone in civil court (small claims court included!):
- Stage 1 – Prepare for Court: You gather all your documents, prepare copies, and write up your case as you intend to present it verbally in court.
- Stage 2 – Attend Court: You appear in the courtroom, with the defendant in the room, and present your case to the judge.
- Stage 3 – Collect on Judgment: If you are successful in winning your case, you will collect what you are owed from the defendant.
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Stage 1 – Prepare for Court.
This is when you prepare mentally and physically for the actual hearing.
- Prepare yourself to speak by making an outline of the points you intend to raise. Some people like to write out the entire speech in full. Some people make index cards with key points on each card.
- It is not recommended that you read from or memorize a long script, because you will likely only have about two to three minutes to speak uninterrupted. The point of writing down what you plan to say is more to gather your thoughts, check that you are presenting a logical set of facts, and make sure you are not talking about anything irrelevant. (For more help, click here to learn more about how to talk to a judge and present your case.)
- Gather your materials and make at least one full copy of any relevant documents, receipts, text message printouts, and witness statements. Collect everything. If possible, make two copies, so that in court you can provide a copy to the judge and to the defendant.
- Prepare your papers ahead of your actual court date. Create a list of the materials that form the evidence. In the written version of your materials, make sure to number the pages. Then, on the list of exhibits, number each exhibit and include the pages they can be found on. You should give all your copies in order by exhibit and page number to the judge at the beginning of the hearing.
- Prepare your witnesses, if you have any. Make sure they are still willing to appear at the courthouse on the day and at the time that your hearing is scheduled. If you are able to offer one, ask if they need a ride to the courthouse.
JusticeDirect will walk your through each step of the process!
Stage 2 – Attend Court
Bring all your materials as described above to the courthouse.
Small claims hearings are less formal and simpler than other trials. But there are some facts to keep in mind:
- You must represent yourself in California small claims court. No lawyers are allowed, so you will need to know exactly what to talk about when it is your turn to present your argument.
- In small claims court, there are two parties: the plaintiff who is suing, and the defendant who is being sued.
JusticeDirect will prepare a trial presentation that you can use on the day of the hearing!
Stage 3 – How to Collect on Your Judgment
Congratulations! You won your case. The Judge accepted your version of the events and issued a judgment in your favor. A judgment is the result of the case, and includes orders for the other party (for example, to repay you what you are owed, or to change their actions).
What happens now?
- If you were awarded money, it’s time to collect.
- If the judge said the defendant has to now do something or stop doing something, you can enforce the judgment.
NEED HELP WITH YOUR JUSTICE JOURNEY?
The quest for justice is never easy, particularly when it comes to getting your money back. However, thanks to advances in technology, it has become easier. Quest for Justice’s first app, JusticeDirect, is the only app of its kind designed to support people without lawyers resolve their dispute and get their money back, both in and out of court.
The first step to getting money back is through a letter demanding payment from the other party JusticeDirect offers customizable demand letters for free. If the letter demanding payment does not work, then the next step is taking them to court.
JusticeDirect* will guide users every step of the way through the small claims court process by helping them:
- Understand the legal process;
- Evaluate the pros and cons that come with taking someone to court;
- Generate small claims court forms; and,
- Avoid common mistakes when filing your forms and serving notice on the other side.
*Currently, JusticeDirect can only help litigants sue in California’s small claims court.