Who can make a claim?
" The small claims procedure provides an important avenue for consumers, businesses and other litigants to pursue claims with only a limited monetary value, in an informal environment, at low cost and at reasonable speed, without incurring disproportionate legal fees "
- House of Commons Constitutional Affairs Committee
Can I make a claim myself?
The small claims procedure was created for Litigants in Person to use without the need of a solicitor. No costs can be claimed for legal representation or for the services of a lay representative. Although lawyers are not banned from small claims hearings in England and Wales the lack of potential cost recovery discourages the use of legal representatives.
Our specialist pre-action® ADR® service carries you through the entire process from letter before action, letter of claim, notice of intent, pre-court preparation, the court process and where needed post-judgment enforcement.
What can I claim for?
The County Court often called the Small Claims Court is used for money claims.
All money claims under £100,000 must be made in the County Court.
Fixed sum money claim
The Small Claims Track is for claims up to £10,000 (including any added interest) for claiming back money that is owed to you by someone (including partners and friends), debt, faulty or poor quality goods, goods not supplied, goods recovery, problems with services, breach of contract, rent arrears, damage to property, consumer claims and for small claims as a point of principle.
The Fast Track is used for claims under £25,000 or claims between £25,000 and £50,000 if the facts are not complex and the legal issues are not complex.
The Multi Track is used for factually and legally complex cases. Factual matters can be decided by the Judge assessing the oral and documentary evidence. Under these circumstances a claim is not normally factually complex. Likewise legal matters can be decided without the need for expert evidence. Under these circumstances a claim is not normally legally complex.
Unspecified money claim
Money claims made by an individual, company or organisation for an unspecified amount of money e.g. when claiming for damages/compensation for loss or injury are known as "unspecified" claims.
How long will a claim take?
A small claim can take as little as 6 weeks if it is undefended and you pro-actively support the small track procedure. However you can expect it to take up to 6 months if your claim is disputed and a hearing is required.
As from 1 April 2013, the small claims track limit has increased to £10,000 (except for personal injury and housing claims). Accordingly, all claims issued after that date will be allocated to the small claims court. The fast track limit has been amended to cover cases between £10,000 and £25,000.
The forecast increase in the number of small claims and the inability to recover costs is expected to mean more Litigants in Person. Litigants in person (or self-represented litigants) will not necessarily understand the legal process or be able to succinctly address the court so for many the process could be prolonged.
How long can I wait until I make a claim?
The Limitation Act 1980 sets time limits on taking claims to court. Usually you will have six years in which to take legal action.
What do I need to do to start a claim?
Your claim starts by demonstrating to the Courts that you have attempted to settle prior to issuing proceedings and you have fulfilled your pre-court obligations, see Letter of Claim and pre-court letter before action for more information.
Alternatively our specialist pre-action® ADR® service carries you through the entire process from letter before action, letter of claim, notice of intent, pre-court preparation, the court process and where needed post-judgment enforcement.
What costs can I add to a claim?
You can claim from the defendant:
Interest - written contracts usually include terms relating to interest. If there is no such term or your claim does not involve a contract, the interest rate is set at 8% per annum under section 69 County Courts act 1984 and calculated on a daily basis. If you want to claim interest you must say so on the claim form. Interest on money owed is calculated from the date it became overdue.
Costs you have spent - to replace, restore or put right if you have receipts for the work by someone else.
What can I use as evidence for my claim?
Your evidence should include points that can support your claim:
Show that you have genuinely attempted to reach pre-action agreement with the defendant before issuing your claim.
Show that you have considered using an alternative method of dispute resolution.
Include where available: photographs, invoices / receipts, emails, letters, contract or agreement written, verbal or implied, any written specifications, terms and conditions, bank / card statements, copies of cheques, proof of posting / recorded / special delivery receipts.
You can also include witness statements. They should be in the witness's own words, in the first person ( I spoke on the telephone to, I was present at) and state the full name of the witness, address or where they work and position in employment, that they arewitness on behalf of you the Claimant and statements should dated, signed and carry the statement 'I believe that the facts of this witness statement are true'.
What can't I make a claim for?
You cannot make a small claim for your own time, emotional stress or consequential loss (shorthand for a broad category of losses including loss of profit, loss of opportunity, loss of goodwill).
How should I communicate with the defendant after issuing my claim?
You should keep all your communications in writing whether email, letter or fax.
If you have used the pre-action® ADR® service prior to your N1 claim form you and the defendant can continue to communicate confidentially through the MoneyClaimsUK website. You can exchange further disclosure and discovery information and documents right up until the hearing.
Further, you and the defendant can make and refuse any number of pre-action offers to settle prior to your hearing. If you reach agreement you, as claimant, simply need to discontinue your claim.
The service is available 24 hours a day. If you are in dispute you can reduce the number of issues for the judge by agreeing to settle in part but not for the whole case.
What if I reach settlement and no longer need to continue with my claim?
You need to inform the Court, in writing, as soon as possible after reaching agreement. The decision to discontinue a claim enables the Court to terminate proceedings and avoids the need for a court hearing or the attendance of the parties.
Discontinuance is achieved by sending written notice to the court and the defendant or his solicitor using an N279 Notice of discontinuance form. This can take place at any time until the Judge begins to hear the evidence of your claim.
What can I do if the defendant provides facts that weaken my claim?
When you have received the defence you may want to ask for further supporting evidence of their facts through standard discovery.
If the evidence supports the defendant's defence you may want to make an Offer to Settle under Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) to try to reach an out of Court settlement before continuing your claim.
The Court and the judge expect parties to try to reach agreement before Allocation to a track and to continue trying until the hearing. You and the defendant can make and refuse any number of offers to settle prior to your hearing. If you reach agreement you, as claimant, simply need to discontinue your claim.
What will it cost if I do not win my claim?
If you lose your claim you will have to pay your own costs. You do not have to pay the defendant's costs when using the small claims track unless you have failed to follow protocol.
At each point when making a small claim you can choose to discontinue your claim and so incur no further costs.
Fees you will not be able to recover include pre-action® ADR® fee, Court fee, Directions Questionnaire fee, Hearing fee.
You will have to pay these fees unless you are on a low income, in receipt of certain income related benefits or you can show that payment of a court fee will cause hardship to you and your family, the court may waive the fee. To apply for a fee exemption or reduced fees you should fill out an EX160 form each time a fee is payable.
When a claim follows the fast track you will usually have to pay the other party's costs if you lose your claim.