court-sentenceI was recently contacted by e-mail for some legal advice by a reader of the NY Injury Law Blog. This person had gone over some of my posts, particularly “The “People’s Court”– NY Small Claims Court.”

I am going keep this person’s identity confidential, but I want to share my response because I believe this advice will be useful to other readers.

The person who contacted me had been the victim of an assault. The assailant had pled guilty and awaits sentencing. The victim had a permanent scar from the assault and this damage was the source of the question to me.  As a NY personal injury attorney, could I advise:

1. How the assault victim should act and speak when before the judge.

2. What amount of compensation might be expected for a scar?

3. When would the compensation decision be made and is there a process to collect claims won in Small

Claims Court?

Here is the advice that I offered:

1. Go to court prepared and organized. Have an outline of how you are going to explain what happened to the judge. Take some good pictures of your scar and print them out as 8-inch by 10-inch images so you can give them to the judge.

Go to the Court Clerk’s office and get a copy of the Certificate of Conviction showing the guilty plea. If you have any witnesses to the assault, bring them with you and have them prepared to tell the judge how you were assaulted.

Stay calm and be polite to the judge (say “Yes, sir,” and “No, sir,” etc.).

2. Scars are tough to value and there is no single website where you can get a precise idea of value.

However, with that said, don’t sweat it because the decision about how much your scar is worth is up to the judge anyway. In order to convince the judge to give you the highest amount possible, you need to be prepared to tell the judge in a calm, honest way about the many different ways in which the scar bothers you both emotionally and physically.

Tell your story with as much heart as you can, but be honest and be careful to not come off as a total whiner.

3. In Small Claims Court, the judge makes the decision. Usually he or she makes it that day, but he or she can “reserve decision” to secure more time think about the ruling.

There is a process to collect, and you can read about it in the informational booklet available at Small Claims Court.

I hope this advice helps the reader who contacted me, as well as anyone else anticipating a day in Small Claims Court.

I enjoy working on the NY Personal Injury Law Blog and helping readers make sense of some very complicated and scary legal issues. Please feel free to contact me with questions – I’m happy to help and explain what you need to know.

Thanks for reading,

James B. Reed, Esq.
Personal Injury & Malpractice Attorney
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
303 William St., Elmira, NY 14902
Tel. (607) 733-8866 Fax. (607) 732-6062
Toll Free 1-800-943-3529
E-mail me at for two free books:
NY Car Accidents and NY Car Insurance Secrets YOU Need to Know.