Starting The Claim At Court
Making a small claim might be a simple task when you know how to, but when doing it for the first time, it is easy to get it wrong.
The Claimant starts a claim by sending a claim form to the court and must pay for the court fee (unless you are requesting an exemption). Virtually all small claims now have to be issued in a central office in Salford.
The portion of the claim form labeled “particulars of claim” contains the specifics of the claim and what you’re asking the court to order. What goes in here depends on the nature of the claim, but the courts want the individual filing the claim to include the following information:
- A succinct description of the situation. This isn’t meant to be a witness statement; you’ll have the opportunity to provide a witness account later. Explain what happened to cause the Defendant to owe money to you.
- What’s the amount of money you’re asking for?
- If you’re expressing interest, be specific about how much you’re looking for and at what rate.
What Happens After A Claim Has Been Started At Court
The Defendant must file a response after the claim has been issued. The Claimant might ask the court to make an order for the full amount claimed if a formal response is not filed within the time limit.
If a defence is filed, the court has to decide what needs to be done to get the matter to trial. To help the court decide what to do, the court send out a form called a directions questionnaire for the parties to complete.
Allocation To The Small Claims Track
If the value of the claim is under £10,000 the court will send a small claims direction questionnaire to both the claimant and defendant for each of you to complete, with a deadline for when it must be returned to court.
Once completed direction questionnaires are returned to the court, the file of papers should be put before a Judge to read. The Judge will then decide:
- Whether the matter should be a small claim
- What else needs to be done to get the matter to trial
- When the trial will take place
Filing Documents and Bundles
The court will post an order to the parties, confirming the matter is a small claim, confirming the trial date and telling the parties when to exchange and file documents.
- The court may simply instruct the parties to file (post to the court) and serve (post to your opponent) the papers they wish to use at trial at least 14 days prior to the scheduled trial date.
- The court may also order that written witness statements be filed and served. Make sure you follow the requirements of the order. Failure to do so may limit the evidence the Judge will examine throughout the trial. Make sure you don’t miss any of the court’s deadlines.
The trial fee is not refundable and must be paid by a certain date which will be specified by the court.
In most cases, only the claimant is responsible for paying the court fees (although a defendant will have to pay a fee it bringing a counterclaim).
Failure to pay a court fee on time may result in the claim or defence being dismissed, so don’t miss the deadline. When dealing with the courts, keep in mind that they can be very tight about deadlines.
The Small Claims Mediation Service
The court will always encourage the parties to discuss possible terms of settlement using its small claims mediation service. The mediation service is free, as such, you should give it a try unless no alternative is left but to go to trial. Mediation is likely to take place over the phone, so you won’t have to go to court or meet with the other party.
The court employs the mediator. The mediator won’t have all the case’s specifics. He won’t give you any advice or make any predictions on who will win at trial. He’s only there to assist you in reaching an agreement with the opposite party to avoid going to trial.
The mediator is competent at negotiating and assisting the parties in reaching an agreement. The mediator will try to break down barriers by encouraging the parties to state what they are looking for and then see if there is a middle ground where a solution can be reached.
How to Book The Mediation Service
Following a defence being filed, the court will issue questionnaires to the parties to complete as discussed above. Directions questionnaires are the name for these types of questions. A question on the front page of the questionnaire asks each party if they wish to use small claims mediation.
If both parties ticked the box on the directions questionnaire saying that you wish to mediate, the court office will be in touch to arrange an appointment. If you haven’t heard back from the court within a couple of weeks of filing your directives questionnaire, phone to remind them that you want to use the small claims mediation service.