If you decide to bring a bring a civil claim it will be necessary for you to prove that you have suffered a loss or injury as a result of another person's negligence or breach of statutory duty. Affordable Law for You considers that it is important that you understand the manner in which the Courts require you to conduct litigation proceedings.
Most civil actions are commenced in the County Court though there are a few exceptions.
It is usually most convenient to bring the action in your local County Court but certain types of cases have to be brought or will be transferred if defended to the Court for the area where the Defendant lives (i.e. medical negligence claims).
Claims over £50,000 may also be brought in the High Court.
Claims up to the value of £5000 will be brought in the Small Claims Court.
The Small Claims Court is part of the County Court and matters brought in this Court are dealt with under a special, more informal procedure.
We can help you prepare the documents which will be required by the Court.
When commencing a Court action, it is necessary in many cases to comply with the Court Protocols and to start the process by sending a letter before action. The letter has to be in a specific format and for examples and downloads click on Standard Protocol Letters.
What the Court want to see is that you have taken every possible step to resolve a dispute before issuing court proceedings and have only issued proceeding once everything else has failed.
To begin an action it will be necessary to prepare and deliver various documents to the Court.
Once the proceedings have been 'issued', the Court will send a sealed copy of the documents to the Defendant to include:
(1) a copy of the Claim Form plus a copy of the Statement and Special Damages
(2) a form for acknowledging service of the claim, and for admitting or defending the action.
The Defendant in a money claim will have 14 days from the date of service to respond. If they do not do so, the Claimant may apply for judgment in default.
If the Defendant replies saying that he intends to defend the claim, he will have a further period of time to lodge the Defence but no more than 28 days from the date of issue of proceedings.
If a Defence is not filed within that time, a judgment in default may be obtained.
Sometimes the Defence that is filed will obviously have no chance of success. If this is the case the Claimant may apply for summary judgment (but not in Small Claims). The Courts will consider this application as it will avoid much wasted time and expense, as a full trial will not be necessary. The application must be accompanied by a signed statement setting out why summary judgment should be granted. If Defendant contends that a claim has no realistic prospect of succeeding, he or she may also apply for the claim be struck out. The Court may also strike out a claim or a defence of its own volition where it considers that the claim or defence has no prospect of succeeding.
When a claim is defended, the Court will send out an Allocation Questionnaire, to each party for completion and return within the time required by the Court. In the event that the Allocation is not returned the claim can be struck out. The completed Allocation Questionnaire will help the Judge in managing the case and deciding how it should be heard and what directions are necessary. The case will then be allocated to the most appropriate 'track' for hearing. Each 'track' has a different way of handling claims and the judge's decision will be based on the complexity and value of the claim and the extent and type of evidence that will be required.
Most claims under £5,000 (but not Personal Injury Claims), or over this amount where both parties agree, will be allocated to the Small Claims Track. This track is intended for simple straightforward disputes suitable for informal adjudication where there is no need to incur legal and experts costs. The amount of costs which the winning side can recover is strictly limited to £5,000.
A hearing date will often be fixed by the Court immediately. In some cases the Judge may decide that the matter can be dealt with on written evidence alone without the need for a hearing. Directions and a timetable will be provided stating what must be done before the case can be decided. A small claims hearings will be informal, and held in the Judge's chambers rather than in a Court room and both parties will have the opportunity to put forward their arguments. The Judge will also ask questions before making a decision.
If the value of the Claim is between £10,000 and £25,000 the matter will usually be allocated to the fast track. This track is appropriate where:
Approximately four weeks after the date of track allocation you will receive standard directions. The directions in many instances will be as follows:
All other cases will be allocated to the Multi-Track. There is no standard procedure. Each case will be managed by a judge, usually by calling a case conference, which all parties in the action will be required to attend, and where directions will be given.
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