- Can you issue a claim?
You can make a small claim for up to £10,000. It is also worth noting that using a mediation service is a quicker and cheaper way of resolving the matter than going to court. Mediation service is offered free by the court for small claims.
- Before you make a claim
Before you make a claim, you should write a formal Letter Before Claim or Letter Before Action to the other party, which should include:
- A short description of the issue;
- What you would like the individual/business on the other side to do;
- The amount that you are claiming;
- A deadline for the other party to reply which needs to be reasonable in the legal framework; and
- Your next steps if you do not receive a reply by the deadline.
More importantly, the Letter Before Action needs to contain the required technicalities and certain wordings to follow the civil rules set out by the court. Without including the necessary technical wordings, you could face difficulties with the claim issued. That is the reality we are facing today, and a judge will not investigate into issues you didn’t spell out and claims you didn’t make in your letter and claim forms, even if you may have eluded to them, or if the facts all point that way.
Without the technical wordings, a judge could also decide that you have not properly carried out pre-action conducts, and it could in turn become damaging for yourself even if you were already the victim.
To make your life easier, you can use Lawli’s low-cost and instant Letter Before Action drafting tool to write your Letter Before Claim for only £29.99!
- Starting the claim
If you have not received a response from the other side, or are not satisfied with the reply, you can then start making your claim.
There are two ways you can start your claim:
The main difference between the two methods is that when you are unsure of how much you are claiming, the N1 claim form shall be used. However, if you are claiming a fixed (“specified”) amount of money, you should make your claim online using the Money Claims service for more streamlined processing.
Both ways of starting the claim require you to give details of both parties, brief details of the claim, the amount you would like to claim (if you have a specified amount).
After filling in the paper claim form N1 you will need to send the form to the County Court Money Claims Centre and also pay the court fee. You can find out which fee you need to pay here.
- What happens next?
The defendant will be sent a copy of the claim by the Money Claims service, and will have to reply within a specified amount of time (usually 14 days).
The defendant has a few options after being served the claim. If the defendant submits Acknowledgement of Service (Form N9), they usually have 28 days from the date of service to respond to the claim.
A defendant can pursue the following options (N1C):
- Strike out the claim (Form N244)
- Defend and countersue (Form N9D)
- Admit the claim and make payment (Form N9C)
If the defendant does not respond in 14 days, the court will issue a default judgement in favour of the claimant, and will usually allow all items requested by the claimant in compensation without necessarily examining each item in details. The court will use the draft order from the claimant to issue the judgement, for the other party to make payment on monies owed.
If the defendant filed the Acknowledgement of Service, they now have 28 days from the date of service to file a response. It’s always worth it to wait until the end of the 28 days before taking any further legal actions, as it’s usually acceptable by the court if the defendant responded right at the deadline, or a day or two after the deadline.
Depending on the defendant’s response, the court would either request the claimant to respond to the defendant’s reply, usually also within a specified amount of days, or the court could order a hearing at the request of the defendant, or the court feels it’s unclear to make a decision based on written responses.
Hence, if you were ever a defendant, you can not afford to not respond to any of the letters threaten legal action. Please keep an eye out for our next article if you were a defendant to read more about what are the best strategies for you to defend and get out of your current situation quickly and legally.
Both parties may need to attend a court hearing if the defendant denies owing the money, or if you are not satisfied with the response. Both parties can either argue the case for themselves, or they can hire barristers to argue the case for them. Barristers come at a steep cost, between £250 – £600 + VAT an hour, and they usually would need to bill you on hours before the hearing for the preparation, hours to attend the hearing, and finalising the judgement.
To prepare for the case at the hearing, traditionally solicitors would work on preparing a skeleton argument and an indexed bundle of witness statement with evidence to present at the hearing. Depend on how much paperwork this involves, solicitors can charge you 3-10+ hours for this preparation at their rates £250 – £600 + VAT per hour.
This costs alone could very well exceed the amount you are claiming from the court by many times, or make your entire case no longer cost-effective. At Lawli, we understand your pain, and have prepared an auto-assisted DIY service to help you draft your own skeleton argument and indexed bundle format at a tiny fraction of the costs, so you are not throwing good money after the bad.
The court will also be more likely to order for the other party to reimburse you for your costs if the costs are within a reasonable sum. For example, the costs incurred by using Lawli’s self-service drafting tool are more likely to be approved in the order for the other party to pay, than the 5 hours at £400 + VAT an hour for a solicitor you hired to help you write 1 page who aren’t even qualified to argue your case at court.
You will receive the decision on the day of the hearing, and you can appeal the decision if you do not agree with it. You have 21 days from the date of judgement to submit an application for permission to appeal. You can also set aside or vary the judgement. If you win the case and are satisfied with the outcome, the defendant will pay you back the money you have claimed, plus the court fees and may be other legal costs such as expenses for using Lawli’s drafting tool.
If the defendant doesn’t pay you the amount ordered in the judgement, you can apply for a High Court Writ to enforce the order, by receiving permission to auction off defendant’s assets to pay back debt owed to you. The defendant would also have the County Court Judgement adverse decision showing on their credit file if they do not make payment in the order within 30 days of the order.
The defendant can file a form of Certificate of Satisfaction or Cancellation himself with the court stating the debt had been paid off. If the form is submitted and the debt is cleared off within 30 days, the record will not show on the defendant’s credit file. If it was not, than it would show on the defendant’s credit file, which would affect the defendant’s credit, and it will show as satisfied once the defendant paid off the debt.