What Evidence to Bring to Court

Win your small claims case by bringing the right evidence to court -- here are some ideas to consider.

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1. Receipts.
If you have a dispute over a service or product you paid for, bring your receipts to court to show how much money you spent. If your case involves damaged property, bring any receipts showing what you originally paid for it -- and what you had to pay to repair it.

2. Checks.
Lots of customers pay for goods and services by check. If you're one of them -- or if you take personal checks in your business -- those pieces of paper can be valuable evidence. A canceled check will help you prove that you actually paid for a particular item or service. If you're suing over a bounced check, bring the actual check that the bank returned (plus documents showing any fees or other charges you had to pay).

3. Photographs.
Photographs can help prove many things -- the condition of yourwrecked car, the water damage from a leaking roof, or the view of a neighbor's unsightly shed from your kitchen window. If you can't bring the actual item into court, take pictures of it (and make sure that the date is printed on the photographs).

4. Written agreements.
If you have a contract or other written agreement with the other party, bring it to court. If you don't have an official written agreement, think broadly about the types of evidence that might help you prove that you had an agreement. For example, a letter discussing an agreement, an invoice, or a receipt might convince the judge that a contract was made, even if you don't have it all down in writing. Also, make sure to bring any warranty papers relating to a disputed item or service.

5. Medical bills.
If the other party injured you, bring copies of your medical bills and records. This will help you prove the extent of your injuries -- and how much you had to pay for treatment.

6. Estimates.
When you are asking the court to force someone to pay fordamage to your property, you must be able to show what it will cost you to repair the harm. If you already had the item repaired, bring the receipt. If you have not yet repaired it, bring estimates showing what you will have to pay. It's a good idea to bring at least two estimates for expensive items, such as repairs to your car or home.

7. Official records.
In some cases, there may be official government records that will help you prove your case. Was a policeofficer called to the scene of your car accident? If so, the officer's report may be useful. Was your neighbor cited for failing to get the required permits before starting a building project? If so, the city inspector's report might help your case.

8. Business records.
If you run a business and have a dispute with a customer or another business, you may have lots of valuable evidence in your business books. For example, in a dispute over an unpaid bill or installment payment, you can show the original charges, the date they were made,and any payments made towards the current balance.

9. Diagrams and drawings.
Visual aids can be a great help to a judge -- particularly in car accident cases. Prepare a diagram of the intersection or street where the accident took place, taking care to note important details such as the location of stop signs or lights, blind driveways, or the place where a witness was standing.

10. Work records.
If you are seeking lost wages for time you missed from work, bring documentation from your employer showing how much you lost. Pay stubs showing your usual wages will help you make your claim. Also, be sure to bring some proof of how much time you missed from work.

by: Ralph Warner

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