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Tips For Fighting a Debt Collector in Small Claims Court

Small claims courts are also known as “the people’s court” because it is so informal and individuals usually represent themselves. When a debt collector is suing you and you’re going to hash it out in a small claims trial, you want to be well prepared before the court date.

It’s a given that you will sit down and think about what you will say to the judge and how you plan on defending yourself. Organizing your thoughts is just one way of preparing for your case. Another is having evidence to support your argument. Write down your key points and gather any relevant documentation like bank records, contracts, receipts and correspondence. Also make copies of anything you plan on using for evidence. This way after you give the judge a set, you’ll still have a set for yourself.

It is recommended that you put your information in chronological order so that when the time comes for you to present your case in the small claims court, the judge can follow along easily and you can tell it all like a story. Don’t leave out any key facts, but try to keep your comments brief.

Arrive early to the small claims court for your case. If you fail to show up on time to the courtroom when your case is being called, you automatically lose. The judge will award the plaintiff a default judgment, and you’ll be left paying a nice sum of money. If you do get to the courtroom early, just sit quietly. If there’s a trial already going on you can always sit and observe what’s going on until your turn.

Once it is your turn, you will sit at a table in front of the judge, and the debt collector will sit to your side. Throughout this trial you’re formally known as the defendant and the debt collector is the plaintiff. Both of you get to make your opening statements. The debt collector gets to go first since they are the plaintiff. This is your opportunity to present an overview of your case to the judge.

After your opening statements, the plaintiff and the defendant (aka debt collector and you), as well as the witnesses if there are any, will be given the opportunity to question one another. Be sharp during this time because it’s your opportunity to poke holes in any statements that were made by the debt collector. Believe me, they will try to do the same to you and try to trip you up. The judge may also ask you to clarify points that were made during the trial. Throughout, he or she may come up with questions for you to get a better understanding of the facts and issues involved. Feel free to ask the judge if you’re ever unsure about something. This is one of the benefits of being in a small claims court.

I’ll have more tips soon on how to handle your debt collector case in small claims court.