Evidence - Eye Witnesses

Much of the evidence received in court is through witnesses. When you are deciding to sue, and you have an eye witness, be sure that you have that witness in court to testify. If a person saw the accident on which you are suing, either contact them to bring them to court, or subpoena them. The Small Claims Court clerk will tell you how to subpoena witnesses.

If you have an eye witness to your case you should take the time to discuss the case with them before going to court. Just because someone tells you they saw the accident, does not mean that they will help you, even if you believe you were right. Be sure what they will say under oath is the same thing they said at the scene, or try to learn if they are unsure of the events. Part of being objective is to look for any hesitation by a witness. A judge or the other party may ask them a question and they may respond differently. Also, be sure you find out if they can draw maps or charts if necessary or identify other persons in a manner that is helpful to your case.

Remember, while you need to find out what these persons will say to be able to determine whether they will help your case, you do not want to give the impression that you put words in their mouths, or that you coached the witnesses.

Eye witnesses are also not permitted to give their opinions in most cases. Thus, if the only way to prove your case is to bring in this witness who knows the defendant and will say that he is a"liar", forget it. The witness must testify about the case and about things in this case about which the witness saw, heard, or experienced in some manner.

Eye witnesses also cannot usually testify about things not related to the instant set of facts. The opinion of this witness about the defendant or what this defendant did to another person in the past is irrelevant [as defined by the rules of evidence] to this case.

You are usually not allowed to bring to court a person who simply can testify that another witness told him that something happened. This is called hearsay. The reason that you cannot bring in a person to testify that another person told him something, is because the court wants to evaluate the credibility of the person who says a person told him something. These rules are complicated and generalizations should not be made. But if you only have a witness who says another told him someone else said something and this will help your case, you may want to bring him to the court's attention, in the event one of the exceptions to the hearsay rule applies. The judge, in Small Claims Court, will decide. But remember to be prepared with other evidence in case the judge does not allow this testimony.

Of course, if that is all the evidence you have and you cannot otherwise win, you might have these persons available to testify in the event that a judge will allow their testimony as an exception to the very general rules which are discussed above. However, you should be much better prepared to win your case, or perhaps consider not bringing it, if that is all the evidence you have.

Points to Remember:

  • Use eye witnesses to support your case.
  • Be sure any eye witnesses will confirm your story.
Posted in: Small Claims