An affidavit is a written statement, which has been notarized. In court cases, witness statements in the form of affidavits can greatly support claims. If you have been asked to provide an affidavit, you may be wondering how to prepare one. Our Columbia personal injury lawyer is here to explain what you need to know.
Step 1. The Case Caption
The first thing that needs to be included in your affidavit is the "case caption," or the header information that informs the reader of what case the affidavit is intended for. This helps court clerks, attorneys, and prosecutors easily identify your affidavit.
The case caption is composed of:
- The name of the court venue, centered on the page. Ex. "Supreme Court of South Carolina"
- The names of the defendants and plaintiffs, below the court venue and aligned left. This information can be found on other legal documents in the case, such as the complaint. Ex. "John Smith, Plaintiff v. Mary Jones, Defendant"
- The case number, which will be level with the defendants and plaintiffs, but aligned right. Ex. "Case No. 1x234567xx"
Step 2. Title Your Document
Below the case caption, you will center the title of your document. The word "Affidavit" is suitable for the title. If your document doesn't include the case caption, your title should be centered at the top of the page.
Step 3. Location
Aligned left, you will write the name of the state on one line, and the country the case occurs in on the next line. Ex.:
United States of America
Step 4. Identify the Affiant
The person giving an affidavit is called the affiant, and the part where the affiant is named is known as the commencement. In the commencement, it is important to state the affiant's full name. Commonly, the commencement is worded as:
"Comes now [Affiant's full name] and states as follows:"
If the affidavit is for a court case, the commencement should be written as:
"Comes now [Affiant's full name], being first duly sworn, under oath, and states as follows:"
Step 5. State Relevant Information
Depending on the nature of your affidavit and the facts of the case, you may be required to include relevant facts. These facts should be included in a numbered list before you elaborate on them below. These facts may include:
- Your address. If your address is important to the facts you are describing, it should be included in the case. For example, if you are signing an affidavit of residence, your address will obviously be important.
- Your age or date of birth. Include this information if the case relies on your age. If you need to be a certain age to inherit from a trust fund, you may be required to submit an affidavit of your age to verify that you are eligible.
- Your occupation. If you are signing the affidavit as an expert or qualified professional, your occupation will be relevant to the case and should be stated in the affidavit. This is important in medical malpractice, injury, or disability cases.
- Your Immigration status. This information can be important to a case involving an immigrant petition.
- Your relationship with the litigants. If you are providing an affidavit in a lawsuit, you should include your relationship to one or both litigants.
Step 6. Describe the Facts
Now that you have the facts of the case listed, it's time to elaborate on them. You should include as many or as few facts as needed. When describing these facts, you should:
- Use first-person pronouns, such as "I am the owner of XYZ Business, located in Columbia, South Carolina."
- Expand on each fact in a separate paragraph. If some small facts cannot be stated alone, they may be included together in a paragraph.
- Number your paragraphs according to the numbered list above this section. This can make your affidavit easier to navigate for readers.
- Describe each fact clearly and concisely. Provide names, dates, addresses and other supporting information as necessary.
- Only use verifiable, firsthand information. Never quote speculations.
- Refer to supporting documents, photographs, and other paper items which can be attached to the affidavit, and be sure to attach them. If mentioning these pieces of evidence, in the affidavit be sure to refer to them as "Exhibit 1" or "Exhibit A" as needed. You can use either letters or number, but be consistent. Label each document or photograph as such, according to the order in which they are mentioned.
Step 7. Write Your Statement of Truth
The point of an affidavit is to be a sworn statement, so it is important to include a statement. You will need to provide a clear statement that the affidavit is a complete representation of the facts to which you are swearing. This assures the reader that the affidavit is not a partial statement and that the affiant has included all information they know about the case. It is common to end the statement of truth with "Further Affiant sayeth not."
Step 8. Spell Out Your Oath
At the end of your affidavit, you will need to write the specific oath you are swearing. In the U.S., an affiant usually provides a statement under the "pains and penalties of perjury," meaning the affiant can be charged with lying under oath if they lie in their affidavit. Because of this clause, it is critical to never state information you know is not true.
Step 9. Prepare for Signing
You will need to create two signature blocks at the end of the statement—one for you and one for a notary. A signature block has space for a signature and lists your full name below the signature. It should also include a space for the date to be filled in at the time of signing. You will sign and date your affidavit in the presence of a notary.
You will also need to provide a statement by a court clerk or notary public that the affiant appeared before them to swear to the above statements and showed legal identification. There will need to be a space for the notary's signature and stamp.
Once you have completed writing your affidavit, you will need to appear before an official who is authorized to take a sworn statement. You will need to present sufficient government-issued identification, such as a passport or driver's license before being allowed to sign the statement. You will sign in the presence of the notary, who will also sign and stamp the document.
Still Have Questions? Ask Our Columbia Personal Injury Attorney - (803) 938-4952
Affidavits are legal documents and are held to high standards. Preparing an affidavit can be a confusing experience, and mistakes may cause your statement to be thrown out in court. Rather than risk your case, you should get the assistance of a qualified attorney to draft your affidavit. Your lawyer can help you verify that all relevant facts are included, the formatting is correct, and that all oaths and statements are legally binding. Why struggle to draft an affidavit when our attorney can make it easy?
With more than 29 years of experience, our Columbia personal injury attorney can help you prepare for a court case. At Masella Law Firm, P.A., we are passionate about providing our clients with the legal support and advocacy they need.