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  1. #1
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    Default Small Claims Evidence

    Would it be wise to present to the judge the defendant's prior case history were the court has found the defendant to have driven a motor vehicle initiative and reckless on multiple occasions in the months prior to having hit my vehicle? I'm considering a small claims court action against the defendant for damages occurred for having hit my vehicle. This would show that the defendant has a pattern of reckless and inattentive driving.

    I have photos and a witness statement. Would it be wise to show the prior case history of the defended to the judge in helping to prove credibility that the defended hit my vehicle?

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Small Claims Evidence

    You should have put this in your original thread:
    https://www.expertlaw.com/forums/sho...6742&p=1148583

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Small Claims Evidence

    Quote Quoting YAI
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    Would it be wise to show the prior case history of the defended
    No. It would make you look stupid because his prior driving has nothing to do with whether or not he is at fault for damaging your car.

    Quote Quoting YAI
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    I have photos and a witness statement.
    Witness to what? Did your witness see the defendant hit your parked car? If yes, that witness should appear in court and say so. Then you present the photos of your damage and your repair costs.

    That's all you need. Should take you about ten or fifteen.

    Anything else is irrelevant and you will only piss off the judge for wasting his time.

    https://www.expertlaw.com/forums/sho...d.php?t=246742

    https://www.expertlaw.com/forums/sho...t=#post1148582

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Small Claims Evidence

    Quote Quoting adjusterjack
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    No. It would make you look stupid because his prior driving has nothing to do with whether or not he is at fault for damaging your car.
    I disagree. While in a regular court that kind of evidence might well be excluded, there are instances even there were such evidence would be admissible. In small claims court the rules are typically more relaxed and it's up to the judge what weight to give the evidence presented. The defendant's prior driving history might well be relevant to the present case particularly if his driving in this incident was similar to those other bad driving incidents. So it might be helpful to bring that up. It's then up to the judge what weight he or she will give it when deciding the case.

    Quote Quoting adjusterjack
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    Anything else is irrelevant and you will only piss off the judge for wasting his time.
    Depending on the details of the accident and the evidence the OP has there might in fact be other things that are relevant. You are viewing this far too narrowly. As for pissing off the judge, small claims judges don't expect non attorneys to know the rules of evidence. Certainly things that are clearly not relevant to the accident will annoy the judge. So telling the court that the defendant ate a ham sandwich a week before the accident would truly be a waste of the court's time. But bringing up evidence that shows what kind of driver the defendant is might indeed be relevant, and the judge should not get pissed off over something like that.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Small Claims Evidence

    Quote Quoting Taxing Matters
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    I disagree. While in a regular court that kind of evidence might well be excluded, there are instances even there were such evidence would be admissible. In small claims court the rules are typically more relaxed and it's up to the judge what weight to give the evidence presented. The defendant's prior driving history might well be relevant to the present case particularly if his driving in this incident was similar to those other bad driving incidents. So it might be helpful to bring that up. It's then up to the judge what weight he or she will give it when deciding the case.



    Depending on the details of the accident and the evidence the OP has there might in fact be other things that are relevant. You are viewing this far too narrowly. As for pissing off the judge, small claims judges don't expect non attorneys to know the rules of evidence. Certainly things that are clearly not relevant to the accident will annoy the judge. So telling the court that the defendant ate a ham sandwich a week before the accident would truly be a waste of the court's time. But bringing up evidence that shows what kind of driver the defendant is might indeed be relevant, and the judge should not get pissed off over something like that.
    On multiple occasions this occurred in a school zone which is one of the worse places to drive reckless. Maybe I call the defendant as a witness. Then ask the defendant if there are any inattentive and reckless infractions. If the defendant is not truthful then I present the evidence. I don't trust the defendant. My concern is that the defendant will not be truthful in court.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Small Claims Evidence

    Did the witness see the defendant hit your car?

    You seem to be avoiding that point.

    And what is your relationship to the witness?

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Small Claims Evidence

    Quote Quoting YAI
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    Would it be wise to present to the judge the defendant's prior case history were the court has found the defendant to have driven a motor vehicle initiative and reckless on multiple occasions in the months prior to having hit my vehicle?
    I'm not sure what "driven a motor vehicle initiative" might mean, but the sort of evidence you're referring to -- even if it could be obtained -- would almost certainly be inadmissible. In this regard, and while I agree with "Taxing Matters" that evidentiary rules in small claims courts are sometimes relaxed, such relaxation typically only pertains to more "mechanical" things like laying foundation, accepting affidavits instead of live testimony, and allowing hearsay. While I obviously cannot rule out the possibility, I have a hard time of conceiving that a judge would allow the sort of evidence described (unless the evidence was so extensive that it proved habit or routine under, e.g., Rule 406 of the Federal Rules of Evidence).

    Quote Quoting YAI
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    Maybe I call the defendant as a witness. Then ask the defendant if there are any inattentive and reckless infractions. If the defendant is not truthful then I present the evidence.
    You didn't identify your state, but are you sure your state allows you to examine witnesses in small claims court? If it does, then your proposed question ought to be met with an objection that the court ought to sustain.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Small Claims Evidence

    Quote Quoting pg1067
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    In this regard, and while I agree with "Taxing Matters" that evidentiary rules in small claims courts are sometimes relaxed, such relaxation typically only pertains to more "mechanical" things like laying foundation, accepting affidavits instead of live testimony, and allowing hearsay.
    The hearsay rule is not simply a mechanical one. It is substantive — it blocks the evidence from being presented at all. It's not just a hurdle you have to jump to get it in, like laying the foundation. The judge should not allow hearsay for which an exception does not apply if the rules of evidence are strictly followed, but in at least some state's small claims courts that doesn't always happen.

    Quote Quoting pg1067
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    While I obviously cannot rule out the possibility, I have a hard time of conceiving that a judge would allow the sort of evidence described (unless the evidence was so extensive that it proved habit or routine under, e.g., Rule 406 of the Federal Rules of Evidence).
    I agree, if the judge applies the rules as he/she would in a non small claims proceeding. But in a small claims proceeding, perhaps the judge would take it into account after hearing it. At worst the judge will tell the OP he doesn't want to hear the evidence of prior accidents. Even then, I don't see a small claims judge getting pissed about that, as Jack said, since most small claims litigants are not lawyers and don't know that for the most part that kind of evidence is not admissible. Small claims court judges see that kind of mistake a lot.

    Quote Quoting pg1067
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    You didn't identify your state, but are you sure your state allows you to examine witnesses in small claims court? If it does, then your proposed question ought to be met with an objection that the court ought to sustain.
    But if the defendant is also not a lawyer, there is a good chance he'd never make that objection. And the defendant likely wouldn't hire a lawyer for defending in a small claims court, if lawyers were allowed in small claims court at all. In some states, the rules prohibit the parties from being represented by lawyers, as you know.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Small Claims Evidence

    Quote Quoting Taxing Matters
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    But if the defendant is also not a lawyer, there is a good chance he'd never make that objection. And the defendant likely wouldn't hire a lawyer for defending in a small claims court, if lawyers were allowed in small claims court at all. In some states, the rules prohibit the parties from being represented by lawyers, as you know.
    From what I've seen over the years, some states not only allow lawyers but also hold jury trials in small claims court, so it's definitely a "who knows?" sort of situation. Certainly no harm with a pro per party trying whatever he/she thinks might work.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Small Claims Evidence

    According to your other posts the other driver's insurance company did admit that he was at fault but the insurer wasn't going to pay for your full damages. Did the other driver's insurance company pay anything at all?

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