This is generally for claims of £10,000 or less (£5,000 before April 2013). The parties are usually expected to be without legal representation as it is a less formal procedure and you are unlikely to recover the costs of legal representation even if you win. However, if the case is complex, the judge has discretion to order that it is not a small claim and so different rules will apply.
Before issuing proceedings, you should try to settle the matter with the other party, or the court may penalise you. You should state your claim in writing to the other party and say that you will take court action if you do not receive a reply within a reasonable amount of time (generally not less than 7 days).
Initial advice can be given via a one hour fixed fee meeting for £95. Thereafter, we will give you an estimate and we will not exceed that estimate without getting your permission first. If appropriate, we will offer you a fixed fee for a fixed amount of work. We also offer Pay As You Go Legal Service, whereby you only pay for the legal services you actually want.
Issuing court proceedings
Claims for a fixed amount of money can be started online at www.moneyclaim.gov.uk. Court fees for online claims must be paid by credit or debit card. Other cases can be issued in the local county court. You will need to complete a claim form. Claim forms are available from local courts, and from www.justice.gov.uk.
Where the defendant accepts the claim, the court will not allocate the case to the small claims track, and if paying immediately monies go to the claimant directly. If the Defendant offers to pay a reduced amount or over a period of time and fills out the relevant forms then the Claimant must decide whether to accept the defendant’s offer and return the relevant forms to the court.
Defending the claim
If the defendant wants to defend the claim, they must respond within 14 days of receiving the claim form (which is assumed to be two days after posting). The Defendant can complete an Acknowledgement of Service to give themselves more time as then they will have 28 days to complete a Defence and send it to the court.
If no Defence is received in time then the Claimant can apply on-line to enter judgment without needing to pay any further court fee.
If a Defence is received then the court will send a Directions Questionnaire Form N180 to both parties. The allocation questionnaire asks basic questions about each parties’ case, such as when they or their witnesses would not be available for a trial (e.g. a pre-booked holiday).
On page 1, the form asks: “Do you agree to this case being referred to the Small Claims Mediation Service?” You should always tick “Yes” or you will have to explain yourself to the judge later. The parties will usually receive a separate form to complete if they are interested in mediation and again, you should complete and return this.
Once both Directions Questionnaires have been received by the court, the court will make a directions order dealing with preparing the case for trial (such as witness statements and documentation). Often the court will not set a trial date at this stage if the judge decides that the matter can be dealt with in a preliminary hearing or wants to encourage the parties to mediate.
Small Claims Mediation Service
The Small Claims Mediation Service offer a free telephone mediation service, whereby the claim is delayed for a few weeks and a date and time is arranged when both parties are available to discuss the matter by telephone with a mediator. The mediator is trained to encourage both parties to settle the claim so you should not be too concerned if the mediator tells you that you are unlikely to win at trial as this is an inevitable tactic to undermine your confidence in your own case in order to encourage you to settle. If mediation is not successful then the mediator will report back to court and the court will set a trial date.
The court will usually order directions regarding witness statements and documentation if it has not done so already. A typical order would be for both parties to prepare witness statements and send copies of the same together with all relevant documentation that they intend to rely on at court to both the court and the other party 14 days before the trial date.
The trial usually takes 30-35 weeks after the claim form was issued and is usually held in public, but may be in private where both parties are in agreement. These hearings are informal and strict rules of evidence do not apply. They usually last one hour, but will not be more than half a day. The judge will usually give judgment at the end of the hearing stating the reasons for the judgment, but occasionally he may “reserve his judgment” and issue a written judgment several days later.
A successful claimant will be able to recover the Court fees as well as some expenses. However, it is unlikely that a claimant will be able to recover any solicitor or professional fees incurred. A successful Defendant will be able to recover their expenses only.
An appeal can only be made where there has been a mistake in the law or a serious irregularity in proceedings and should be raised shortly after the judgement is received.
Case Summary: When Weddings Go Wrong
My client had paid a deposit to a catering company and a hotel for their daughters’ wedding day.
Unfortunately, their daughter had a very serious illness and they had to cancel several months in advance. The hotel and the catering company both demanded payment in full in accordance with their terms of business.
I advised the client regarding unfair contract terms and also suggested that they check whether the date they had booked for their daughter’s wedding was still available. They checked and it wasn’t, because the hotel had booked in another wedding on the date that had been reserved for our client. They were then taken to court by the caterers, I advised our client on how to represent themselves in court and they won! The judge even suggested that they could bring a claim for the return of the deposit!
When things go wrong, we often assume that it is “all our fault” and particularly in consumer issues, the law often provides more protection than we realise. Large, faceless institutions often try to hide behind their “terms and conditions” and refuse to be flexible, but we can advise you what you rights are and sometimes you will be pleasantly surprised.
– Justin Sadler
Get in Touch
We can help you at any stage in this process. We can advise you on the strength of your claim or defence and help you prepare your witness statement or documentation in support of your case. We can help you prepare for the trial or instruct a junior barrister on your behalf (usually for less than £500) to conduct the trial for you.
For more information, contact Justin Sadler on 0118 958 9711 or [email protected]
Justin provided me with legal council on behalf of Barrett and Co. I would highly recommend the initial consultation, as this helped outline the matter and provide me with possible options. Justin is personable, clear and concise and I would definitely recommend his services.
'I had no prior knowledge of this firm, until I telephoned the office based on Google reviews and with only a few days left prior to the case unfolding, the pressure was really on!! The approach of every staff member was gentle, caring and unusually courteous. I was terrified at the prospect of my chances, especially as the other side had considerable experience in court. Both Justin Sadler and Chris Miller were warm, sympathetic, calm and completely unperturbed; they immediately suggested a way forward and then recommended their choice of Counsel. I had my doubts and was like a rabbit in headlights; Chris carefully guided me through the process and kept me calm throughout. The result was an outright victory. An amazing result, delivered with care, attention and I was charged less than the amount of work actually delivered! A highly unusual firm of solicitors. Huge thanks to Chris/Justin.
Would like to place on record my thanks to Chris Miller who worked on our case. Great support and hard work to ensure we came out with a positive outcome. Would not hesitate to contact or recommend Chris, Justin and team to help with any future cases. Thanks again, Joe
I have recently used Barrett & Co to assist me with my divorce and can only say good words about the experience. Paul Wild especially not only provided reassuring advice, but his professionalism (and indeed, that of everyone at Barrett & Co) made me feel supported throughout the whole process, and left me with the feeling that he genuinely cared about my situation. The level of dedication displayed by not only Paul but also Richard Ince in the conveyancing team was top notch, in particular when turning work around within tight timescales, and keeping me appraised throughout so nothing came as a surprise. I will definitely use Barrett & Co for any legal needs in the future - very highly recommended!
Barrett & Co come highly recommended. I recently worked with Alan Warnes on a property sale that was very complicated due to changes in the lease, and dealing with difficult and lengthy queries from the buyer's solicitors, and Alan guided me expertly through the process. His tenacity, patience, legal expertise and good humour were greatly appreciated. I have used Barrett & Co's services for previous property purchases and sales, for declarations of trust, and one of the partners also became executor to my parent's estate several years ago. They are very professional, and also warm, friendly solicitors to work with. I would not hesitate to engage them again if the need arises.
Thanking Justin Sadler and Chris Miller for being so welcoming, understanding, supportive, very dedicated to our situation. They are very professional and a very committed legal team! Also the receptionists were always welcoming and kind. I would highly recommend Barrett and Co Solicitors in the first instance!
I had Justin Sadler work with me, giving excellent advice and general support with a very difficult, complex case against an ex-business partner. Happy to say that I got a full settlement before going to court, as with that advice, I was in a very strong, empowered position to emphatically 'win' my case without incurring additional court costs!
Jane Whitfield was friendly and professional and I found the process of making a will to be easy and straightforward. I would thoroughly recommend.