WARNING: The date of this video is 2015 and it was checked in 2018 – there are more recent videos on similar subjects that you may also want to look at.
This is a video for those who want to “Go it alone” in the courts, specifically utlising the small claims track facility to avoid expensive lawyers making it prohibitive (lawyers are not allowed in small claims track, or at least if they do they will not be paid). USUAL CAVEAT: MAKE SURE THE ADVICE I GIVE IS CURRENT. YOU CAN ALWAYS EMAIL ME ON AN ISSUE SO QUERY IF REQUIRED.
1. Costs. This is the biggest issue of course and you should know that if you are doing it yourself you are probably of a low value (under £10,000) and on the small claims track. I would estimate that for a case nearing the high end of this range (costs are on a sliding scale for most types of claims for a purely monetary remedy) then you are looking at exposure to £1,000 maximum costs if you lose. These are mostly court fees and if it is a tiny claim this goes down to as low as £100 – see EX50. Costs can also be incurred that you may have to pay for for expert (max £750) and loss of earnings for your opponent and his witnesses (£95 a day)
2. Make sure you have been genuinely wronged and you are no getting counter-claimed, for instance building works where you are a builder chasing an unpaid invoice and maybe you not have done everything right or perhaps even caused some minor damage. Consider putting it down to experience this time if it is low value. That being said, everyone may need to go to court once in their life and so see it as a educational experience and an entrepreneurial endeavour, not a grudge war. It can be cheap and easy to just bang off an N1 claim form (once you have written to them about your complaint and have been ignored) which can cost as low as £35 for a £500 claim.
3. Get it right! Make sure you complete pre-action stage properly and do not go straight to issue without a paper trail and make sure you fill in N1 correctly. If you do not you could get into trouble and if you are fighting a larger organisation they could make a strike-out application for a poorly particularised claim, for example, before the case even gets designated as “small claims” and now you are facing serious legal bills to amend your claim. The law still applies! If you make sure you have carefully filled in the N1 form you should be fine; and if there is a complex issue get a little bit of legal advice just to help with that. (Or perhaps try CAB.)
4. Be aware of various exceptions such as personal injury and tenants against landlords and non-money claims like possession claims. These claims may not fall into the standard small claims track even though they may be under £10,000. Online resources below will help you and this is all explained in court leaflets and the court rules (Civil Procedure Rules, CPR) if you do your research.
5. Legal advice? Well, the system is designed to exclude lawyers but there are companies who will help you with advice but not charge you an arm and a leg to actually represent you properly. Might be worth it if you trust them and you use them judiciously in proportion to size of claim. But obviously having a solicitor represent you in its entirety defeats the purpose as it will eat away your claim value. We may be a bit expensive as we tend to deal in more complex, higher-value claims but we are considering creating a special advice service of £100 an hour (approx).
Conclusion: I claimed before I was a lawyer and found it worked well. The value was £2,000. I went to his home town where the case was transferred (as is common if your opponent is not a company). I paid a small amount of fees. He did not show up. I got my money! Remember, that the most important thing is paperwork and preparation. So before you issue you should have basically laid out exactly what the complaint is and what you want them to do to correct it and give them time to respond.
Here is a list of some relevant web-sites. There are more out there:
www.moneysavingexpert.com – will take your through the steps and shows you basic N1 Form to use
www.citizensadvice.org.uk – they can also give basic advice
www.gov.uk/make-court-claim-for-money/going-to-court – basic government leaflet on going to court
www.justice.gov.uk/courts/procedure-rules/civil/rules/part27 – if you want to know the REAL detail and be sure of your ground. The Civil Procedure Rules (CPR). What is said here trumps all else. This is the law and other information sites (including this one) may easily be outdated. Do not forget to look at the Practice Direction associated with CPR Part 27.
19 October 2015