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Bringing any civil claim is daunting for most lay people, but it needed be as the court process is designed to be informal at the county court.
We often refer to disputes as being civil in nature when the state is not involved (e.g. unlike a criminal prosecution) and the dispute is between two individuals or businesses. Civil disputes cover a range of issues such as non-payment of debts, medical negligence resulting in death or serious personal injury, consumer disputes, where something you buy is not fit for purpose or is faulty.
Letter Before Action
If you have a money claim you may wish to bring a civil claim, but before you bring a claim you must ensure that you are not out of time (time limits apply, for instance you have 6 years to bring a contract claim) and have tried to do the following:
1. Written a letter before action (sometimes referred to as the Pre-Action Letter) giving the other side at least 14 days to respond before considering bringing a claim;
2. Made an offer to settle out of court via mediation (the courts run a free Small Claims Mediation Service) or arbitration, otherwise you could be penalised by the court, especially if you are a business;
Where to bring a claim?
Most matters civil matters are dealt with at the county courts or the 'small claims court' providing the claim is less than £10,000. Civil disputes in court are referred to as civil litigation. Claim are issued with a petition called a claim form and the vast majority of cases judgments are made without need for a hearing.
"About 1.4 million civil claims and petitions are brought to the county courts each year. Typically only about 3-4% of these require a hearing."
Ministry of Justice (open.justice.gov.uk) 2014.
Starting a small claim
There essentially two ways now to bring a claim. You may choose the online option and complete a series of question via the government's website HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) Money Claim Online (MCOL) or choose to bring a paper claim by completing a Form N1 (Part 7). There is a fee to pay.
Should I consult a solicitor?
The small claims procedure is designed to be used without solicitors and you may not be able to claim your solicitors claim back even if you win. But you can take advice from the Citizens Advice Bureau or other Community Legal Advice.
However, you may of course contact us directly to discuss your claim and we can help you at every stage of your claim, including helping you draft your letter before action, complete the claim form and help and advise you on preparing for the hearing at a fixed cost.
Civil Dispute Solicitors, London
If you would like to know more about how to bring a claim at the civil courts call us on 0203 540 6340 to speak to one of our expert civil litigation solicitors. Alternatively, email us on firstname.lastname@example.org or complete our online enquiry form.