I get it. You want a lot of people for your squad. But, “more” is not always “merrier.” When picking and preparing your witnesses, make sure that their testimonies add to and not distract from your case. From selecting the right witnesses to making sure that your stories line up, read our article to find out how to prepare the perfect witness for your trial.
Finding the Right Witness
When deciding who to take with you to court, make sure that your witness has the following traits:
- Credibility—if you can’t trust them, neither can the judge. If they happen to be an expert in a field related to your case, then even better!
- Trustworthiness. Because it is not a good idea to put the defendant’s girlfriend on the stand
- Is not a friend or family. Just like with job referrals, family and friends are not the best references, but they do in a pinch
- Willing to testify
With regards to the last trait, it is possible to subpoena a witness, or force them to testify with a court order. However, think about what they might say on the stand if you make them go to court. The same goes for the untrustworthy or “hostile” witness. Even if they swear an oath to tell “the truth,” don’t be surprised if they aren’t exactly forthcoming with their side of the story. At times, witnesses may even lie so as to protect their own interests. Therefore, it is tantamount that you work with your witness, and not against them.
Compromise with Your Witness
Witnesses have their own lives too. Therefore, be understanding and accommodating. You may have suffered an injustice, but you don’t want to make life unfair for everybody around you, including your witness.
There are plenty of ways to make life easier for your witness. For example:
- If they live too far away from the courthouse, ask the courthouse if your witness can testify by phone. If it’s not possible, have them write their testimony down.
- If your witness cannot get out of work unless they prove to their boss that they HAVE to go to court, file a subpoena and make them a copy of it to show their boss. To learn how to file a subpoena, click here.
- If your witness has financial concerns about missing work or just in general, offer to pay them. After all, they are entitled to $35 a day and 20 cents per mile both ways from the courthouse under the guidelines of the subpoena. However, if you are facing your own financial burdens, it is not mandatory to pay them unless they request it.
Of course, getting their testimony there is one thing. Having their testimony help your case is another.
Prepare Your Witness
Before you even prepare your witness, make sure that you have rehearsed your own part in the trial. To learn how to best present your case, click here.
To make sure that the witness has your back, have them
- Write down the main points of their argument.
- Bring up who they think is responsible for the damages (in their testimony)
- Take any evidence they may have with them to court
- Refresh their memory of events relevant to the case
- Review any statements they have made (like in a police report or something of the like) to make sure that their testimony lines up with their statement
- State their credentials if they are an expert witness
The main point is seeing where your stories line up, and where they don’t as much. By listening to the witness’s side of the story before your trial, you are more prepared to move forward with your own arguments during the trial. For instance, if the witness’s story holds a discrepancy from your own, explain to the judge why the witness may have missed seeeing what you saw, or what the witness failed to notice during the course of events.
The Help When You Need It
Any time that you need help with your small claims case, reach out to us via LiveChat, on the phone at 1-888-SUE-YA-88. Most clients successfully complete their small claims paperwork without issue.
“How to Prepare and Present Your Case (Small Claims).” How to Prepare and Present Your Case (Small Claims). 2017 Superior Court of San Mateo County, n.d. Web. 23 Jan. 2017.
“Plaintiffs and Defendants … Making the Best of Your Day in Court.” The Small Claims Court, A Guide to Its Practical Use – California Department of Consumer Affairs. 2016 State of California, n.d. Web. 23 Jan. 2017.