TN Witnesses at a Small Claims Trial

Witnesses are people who come to court to tell what they've seen or heard. These people should either be witnesses who saw what happened or experts on the subject matter of the claim involved.

Before you bring any witnesses to your trial, discuss the case with potential witnesses who have personal knowledge of the case. Decide who can provide evidence in your favor.

Whether you're the plaintiff or the defendant, you may bring witnesses to your trial to support your story. Witnesses shouldn't be brought to the pretrial conference.


A subpoena is a command to appear at a certain time and place to give testimony regarding a certain matter. The testimony may be before the court or before a court reporter. Upon your request, the clerk's office will sign and seal a subpoena prepared by you, or they'll prepare and then sign and seal a subpoena for you.

If you believe someone can provide essential information, but the person is unwilling to appear in court, ask the clerk to issue a witness subpoena compelling the person to appear. You'll need to give the clerk the person's full name and address. The clerk will inform you about the required fees. The witness must be served with the summons by the sheriff or the process server.

If you receive a subpoena, you may contact the person who had you served or their attorney for additional information on the matter. Contact information is located within the subpoena. Don't ignore a subpoena or the court may hold you in contempt; this means you've violated a court's order. Consequences for contempt include fines or even jail time.

Expert Witnesses

An expert witness is someone who because of their education, training, skill or experience has more knowledge about a particular subject than the average person.

Examples of possible expert witnesses are:

  • Automobile mechanics
  • Automobile body workers
  • Carpenters
  • Painters

The Best Witnesses

Bring witnesses only if you know they'll support you. Witnesses who aren't friends or relatives may be more effective in proving your case. If your only witnesses are friends or family, you should still bring them but ask them to present themselves in a professional manner, be objective and not be emotional.

Talk to Witnesses Before Hearing

Always talk to your witnesses before trial. Your witnesses may not see or interpret the facts in the same way that you do, or they may have forgotten some of the important details.


At the discretion of the court, testimony of any party or witness may be presented over the telephone. Additionally, at the discretion of the court, an attorney may represent a party or witness over the telephone without being physically present before the court.

Witness Order

Decide the order in which you'll call your witnesses. If both parties are present but neither has an attorney, the plaintiff will have the first opportunity to present witness testimony. During the proceedings, the judge may ask questions of any witness. If the defendant has an attorney, the attorney will begin by questioning the plaintiff and the plaintiff's witnesses.

Don't Interrupt Witness Testimony

Even if you think information provided by a witness is inaccurate, don't interrupt a witness to clarify the information. Make notes about the information you believe is inaccurate. You'll be given an opportunity to address those issues before the end of the proceeding.

Interrupting is proper only when you believe you've an allowable objection, such as claiming that a witness doesn't have direct knowledge of the case or is relying on hearsay, which is testimony that relates to what others have said, not to what the witness personally knows.

Questions for Your Attorney

  • Do I need to have witnesses?
  • Can a witness testify by telephone?
  • What can I do if one of my witnesses changes his story and ends up telling lies during my hearing?
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