Small claims court is a place for people to seek compensation for property or services, without the requirement of having an solicitor. There is a maximum amount of compensation the filing party can ask for. The process is simple, for those who follow the steps.
In some instances, an solicitor can help. Many law firms offer no win no fee small claims services which you can learn more about in this guide. This means they don’t make any money from the case, unless the plaintiff wins an award. For some issues, it may be best to seek the advise of legal counsel, particularly for complicated matters.
A claim filed with small claims courts must be seeking compensation equal to or less than 10,000 pounds, except for a personal injury claim. Most personal injury claims over 1,000 pounds must be referred to another court. For those who need assistance, a friend can help with the filing of the claim. The local Citizens Advisory Bureau may also be able to offer help and guidance about the process or where to file.
Some common types of cases filed in small claims courts include faulty product cases, breech of contract, faulty services provided by a contractor, damages to personal property that are not reimbursed by insurance, wages promised to the claimant, and other common disputes. If a claimant has questions about whether he or she is able to file a small claim, the Citizens Advisory Bureau or the court may be able to answer questions and direct the individual to the appropriate jurisdiction.
Before filing a claim, it helps to understand some of the terminology used in court filings and proceedings, to make the process easier. A person filing the claim is referred to as the claimant. The person whom the claim is being filed against is known as the defendant. The claim for required to file with the court is the N1 Claim Form. This document will ask for details of the case, such as the name of the defendant, the amount of money involved, and details related to the case. The claimant has some space to describe the details on the form. However, if additional space is required, it can be attached on an additional paper.
When the claimant files the form with the court, it will be stamped. The court will then send an issue notice to the defendant, and a copy to the claimant. The notice will have a court case number included. The claimant should take two copies of the completed form to the court or mail it to the court. If the claim is seeking a monetary award, the form is taken to the County Court Money Claims Centre. Otherwise, it must be submitted to the county court.
If the defendant lives in a different county, the form will be forwarded to the county in which the defendant lives. The claimant also has the option of hand delivering the claim and related issue of notice to the defendant personally, as long as all the necessary papers are attached. If the claimant has additional details added on another sheet of paper, he or she can deliver the additional details up to 14 days after the initial notice has been served.
After the defendant receives the issue of notice, he or she has 14 days to respond, to either defend the claim or agree with it. No response within the required time frame is assumed to be an agreement with the claim. In such instances, the court is likely to issue an award the claimant is asking for.
Before the N1 form is filed, it is in the best interest of the claimant to try and resolve the matter directly with the other party. By asking for a refund on defective services or a defective product, the claimant has shown that he or she has taken the necessary steps to remedy the situation. This effort should be documented on the claim form when it is filed with the court, if an adequate resolution has not been agreed upon.
Before filing the form, the parties may request a mediation through the court, or through a private mediation firm. Many legal firms also offer this service. When a claim is filed, the court may also require the parties to try mediation. This process involves a neutral third party meeting with both parties, to try and help them reach an agreement. The mediator can be court appointed and is expected to have no interest in either party or in one resolution over another. He or she is a trained professional, designated to help parties reach an agreement without utilising court resources.
If the claimant chooses to seek the services of a solicitor, fees are often charged based on the amount of the award. There are many legal firms across the UK with knowledgeable lawyers who can help claimants through the process. For larger amounts being sought, it is advisable to have the assistance of an attorney, who is able to help navigate the court process and determine whether the claimant is likely to be awarded the amount requested, or another amount. Law firms with professionals to help through the legal process have the resources and knowledge to know how much a claimant should be seeking. In some instances, the claimant may not be aware of his or her rights, with respect to the damages he or she is entitled to. A knowledgeable lawyer may also help the claimant get a higher award than the initial request. You can find out more in our no win no fee claims guide here.
When the defendant indicates he or she is defending the case, the court will often send a questionnaire to both parties, asking if a mediation would be considered. The claimant will be required to submit a fee when the questionnaire is returned. However, by agreeing to a mediation, it is possible for the claimant to receive a resolution much faster than by asking the court to decide the case. The court offers free telephone based mediation services, to make it convenient for both parties to work out a suitable resolution.
If the parties are not open to mediation or if mediation is unsuccessful, the court will issue an allocation. This is a legal document that tells both parties what they must do to prepare for a court hearing. For a claimant and a defendant, if an attorney has not been retained, this is the time to find one and retain services. The instructions will ask both parties to send any additional documents related to the case, directly to the court, 14 days prior to the hearing date. If the required documents are not sent, the case could be postponed until the necessary papers are in order.
The allocation will usually set the date, time, and place of the hearing. The claimant can apply to the court to hear the case in his or her absence, if traveling to the location is more costly than the amount of the claim.
For some small claims cases, filing is simple and requires a minimal amount of paperwork. For more involved cases or those asking for a larger amount, is it usually best to seek the advice of a lawyer. Knowing when and where to file the necessary documents is the key in successfully filing a small claim in the Uk.