This guide contains a summary of the essential aspects of making claims, but not in employment or family law matters. This is a complex and expensive area of the law. The merits of a claim are crucial as they indicate the chances of success in making or defending a claim. Specific issues can arise where you will need expert advice. The costs of bringing or defending a claim can sometimes become more important than the subject matter, which is why you should take legal advice as early as you can so that you can put in place a strategy plan and budget for dealing with any claim. For a fixed fee we can review and recommend a strategy for any claim.
The Civil Procedure Rules (“CPR”) set out what must be done to “issue a claim” with the High Court or the County Court. They stipulate the fees to be paid and the procedural steps to be followed to bring any claim before a court for final determination.
The CPR contain “protocols” which set out the steps that parties must follow before any formal court documents are issued. Different protocols apply to different types of claims. They govern what is called the “pre-action period”. Parties are expected to inform each other of their claims or responses and share information and documents before a claim is issued. Failure to comply with a protocol can result in a party having to pay more of the overall legal costs of all parties to the claim. If a party or their solicitor wishes to comply with a protocol they will send a “letter of claim”. That letter will set out the facts relied upon by the claimant and the legal consequences which entitle them to claim money, damages or some other remedy against you. You will be given a deadline to reply to the letter. If you do not reply the claimant may proceed to issue formal court documents at either the County Court or the High Court. This could be a “claim form” or an “application notice”.
Deadlines are very important with claims. If you miss them you could end up having a judgment against you, which could affect your credit rating. Documents will come to you by post or could be handed to you personally. So, you should collect, open and read all of your post or your e-mail or get someone reliable to do so and pass any information/documents to you urgently.
If you think you want to make a claim or that someone might make one against you, you should keep secure any documents which might be relevant to your case so that you can comply with your legal obligation to give disclosure. This includes documents which assist you, as well the other party to the claim. It also covers any electronic documents, e-mails or text messages stored on any computer, device or phone.
You should also check whether you have legal expenses cover on your house contents or other insurance policy. Read the policy terms and conditions carefully and consider calling their help line to find out if you are covered. Having this cover makes it less of a headache to deal with a claim.
When a claim is issued a “court fee” must be paid unless you are entitled to apply for an exemption. The Court fee is charged on the value of the claims.
Based on value claims are “allocated” to either the “small” (up to £10,000), “fast” (£10,000 – £25,000) or “multi” (over £25,000) tracks. This affects how quickly the case is determined and the amount of court fees and legal costs a party can recover. If you win a small claim you will recover the court fee but not your legal costs, unless your opponent has behaved unreasonably.
After “allocation” the court makes directions in preparation for the final hearing. The court has a duty to manage claims so that its time is used to deal with all cases fairly. Parties must disclose documents, exchange witness statements and any experts’ reports by given deadlines. There are rules as to when you can use an expert’s opinion.
If deadlines are missed the court may impose sanctions (refusing to allow documents, evidence or expert reports) or make costs orders where a party has not complied with directions or the rules.
If you employ a solicitor or barrister, fees are requested prior to commencing work on your behalf. The court can order your opponent to pay your costs in limited circumstances. It can order payment within 14 days of part of the costs before the case is over. At the end it will make an order about any remaining costs. The normal order is that a loser pays but the court can make percentage orders or orders about issues. The trial court will either say (i) what final amount is to be paid in 14 days or (ii) that a specialist costs judge must “assess” the winner’s costs in which case the loser must pay a sum on account (usually 50% of the estimated costs) in 14 days.
Assessment by a costs judge is treated as a new claim. Where the costs claimed are under £75,000 the court will “provisionally” assess the costs without a hearing. If a party disagrees with the assessment they can request a hearing but will have to pay the opponent’s costs unless they achieve an increase or reduction of 20% of the costs claimed. If a party does not beat an opponent’s offer of settlement they will have to pay the costs of the assessment in 14 days.
If a party appeals any decision in the case about the claim or it costs, then the court will order the loser of the appeal to pay costs.
For further information and arranging a fixed fee appointment to ascertain the merits of your matter please contact Cormac Cawley in the Litigation, Arbitration & Dispute Resolution Team at The Sethi Partnership Solicitors.
Cormac Cawley – Solicitor Litigation
T: +0044 (0)20 8866 6464
The Sethi Partnership Solicitors I The Barn House I 38 Meadow Way I Eastcote I Ruislip I Middlesex I HA4 8TB