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Guide To The Court Process

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The legal system is full of acronyms and terms that you may not be familiar with, and it can be complex and hard to navigate if you are on your own.

This guide is designed to help you better understand the legal process and what to expect if you are involved in court proceedings. If you need our expert help, then we are more than happy to discuss your case with you on a confidential basis.

What is a Claim Form?

This is a legal document to enable you to start a claim against a company or individual. The most common type of claim is called a Part 8 Claim set out on a document called an N208.

If your claim is a simple one, you can fill out the N208. However, if your claim is more complicated, you can attach to this what is called your Particulars of Claim. This document sets out the history of the claim and has attached to its evidence in support of the claim. An example of evidence would be a copy of an invoice showing the outstanding amount. To issue a claim, you will need to send this document to the court and a court fee of around 5% of the amount you are claiming.

You can, if you wish, issue a claim online. To do this, you can use a portal claimed MCOL. This stands for Money Claim On-Line. Information can be accessed here if you wish to do this.

Your Particulars of Claim must be drafted in the correct manner. If they are not, you could face delays and find that you may be ordered to pay costs to the person you are trying to recover money from. If you want to make sure you get it right the first time, we will be able to provide you with advice at a competitive rate and give you peace of mind that you follow the correct legal procedures.

Always remember that before issuing a claim, you are required under the Pre-action Protocol to send a letter before action to the potential Defendant. Issuing Court proceedings is a last resort, and the Courts always expect the parties to resolve the matter amicably in correspondence before claims are issued.

What happens after a Claim is issued?

Under normal circumstances, the Court will issue the Claim form and serve (or send it) to the Defendant. The Defendant then has 14 days to either file an Acknowledgment of Service, file a Defence or admit the claim.

What is an Acknowledgment of Service (AOS)?

This is a form which the Defendant fills out to say that it has received the claim form. It gives the Defendant more time to file a defence. It means that the defendant has 28 days to send a defence to the court and the Claimant from the date the Claim was served.

What is a Defence?

A Defence is a legal document setting out why somebody does not agree with the claim that has been brought against them. It can have attached to it evidence in support of the defendant’s position. It is possible when filing a defence to bring a Counterclaim. This is a claim that the defendant may have against the Claimant. You will need to pay a court fee if you wish to bring a Counterclaim and send this to the Court.

Again, if you are uncertain how to file a defence and want to make sure that you avoid a County Court Judgment being filed against you, we can help draft your Defence and ensure you follow the correct legal procedures.

What if the Defendant does not reply to my Claim Form?

If the Defendant does not reply to your claim form within 14 days of the claim being served (or sent to them), you can apply for Default Judgment. This is an administrative process and can result in you getting Judgment for the amount claimed plus interest and some court costs. You need to fill out a form called an N225 or N224.

If you successfully obtain a Default Judgment, you can enforce it and see if you can get the Defendant to pay you the money. We can discuss with you the best method for achieving this and getting your money back quickly.

I did not receive the Claim form and have just found out I have a County Court Judgment registered against me.

If you find yourself in this situation, you must act quickly. You can apply to have the judgment set aside on the basis that the Claim was never served on you or that you have a reasonable prospect of defending the claim.

You will have to pay a fee to make this application and use Form N244. You will need to send a copy of it to the person who brought the claim against you. There will be a hearing before a District Judge that you must attend.

This process can be confusing if you are not used to dealing with legal proceedings. We can help by providing pragmatic advice to deal with this situation and help you fill out the paperwork correctly and ensure you are represented at the hearing.

What is a Directions or Allocations Questionnaire?

This is a document that the court will issue after a defence has been filed. It is a form that you must fill in and return to the court. It is the document that a judge will look at to see how the claim should be dealt with and to enable the court to set a timetable to take the matter to trial.

The Directions will take into account the running of the matter and will set a timetable for when steps such as disclosure of all documentation and exchanging of witness statements should take place. Once the parties have exchanged witness statements, it is then usually expected that the Court will set a date for a final hearing.

Settlement

During the court process, the parties can look to settle their dispute, and there are multiple options available. Without prejudice offers can be made, and also the parties could agree to undertake alternative dispute resolution such as a round the table meeting or mediation. Alternative dispute resolution is often a more cost-effective way of resolving a dispute than attending a trial and should therefore always be considered given its commercial benefits.

If you wish to discuss issuing a claim, defending one or are uncertain about the court process, then please feel free to contact our Specialist Team, who have extensive litigation advice.

Chloe Doggett

Posted:

Chloe Doggett

Associate

Chloe is an Associate in the Commercial Litigation team. She acts for private individuals, large and small businesses and charities on a wide range of legal matters from adverse possession, right of way disputes and other property litigation.