Small claims courts are used for cases that involve low sums. Generally speaking, the court will deal with claims for less than £10,000 depending on the type of claim being made – complicated cases, like personal injury, will be assessed case-by-case, and may be taken to a full court hearing.
If you want to take someone to small claims court, whether it’s a landlord, employer, company or another citizen, everything here will help you get started.
Looking for specialised advice for your case? Or would you rather a solicitor helps you through the process? The experienced small claims team available through First4lawyers can provide you with a personalised assessment of your claim. Contact us today for a no-obligation phone call for advice and recommendations.
What kind of claims are covered in small claims courts?
All sorts of claims can be made in a small claims court, but some appear more frequently. These include compensation for faulty services and goods, disputes between landlords and their tenants, and disputes between employees and employers.
There are legal time frames you need to follow in order to make a claim in court. These vary case by case, but the following are some of the most common claim time limits:
- Breach of contract: six years
- Negligence: six years
- Personal injury: three years
If you speak with First4lawyers, you will be able to find out time limits for your personal circumstances.
Before you apply to the court
In many cases, you need to try and settle the claim out of court before making an application – if you don’t, you could be penalised. For example, if you have a faulty product, you should try to resolve the issue with the supplier before taking it to court.
You can either do this yourself (it’s important to keep records of conversations if you do) or you can hire a mediator to help you.
How to start your claim
The form you must fill in is called an N1. This is available either online or from a local court. You’ll need to give details about yourself (the ‘claimant’), the person or business you’re claiming against (the ‘defendant’) and the amount you are claiming for. You’ll also need to give details about the claim, explaining why you are taking this to court.
If you feel you are owed interest as part of the claim, you can include this here. Finally, attach any relevant documents that may help your case, such as a written agreement. Be sure to make multiple copies.
Once this is completed you’ll need to send it to your local county court – there will be a court fee based on the amount of money you’re claiming for, though this can be waivered if you have low income.
The actions of the defendant
Once the court has received and stamped the claim it will be sent to the defendant, who has two options.
They can choose not to defend the claim, and therefore the case won’t go to court. The defendant will have to pay, but mediation will usually take place to settle the amount and the date. This can be negotiated, depending on if you think the amount and date is fair, and eventually a judge will finalise a date of payment and a final amount.
If the defendant chooses to defend the case, they’ll have two weeks to respond. They will have to arrange a defence, which will be sent to the court, and both parties will be sent a ‘directions questionnaire’. The results of this questionnaire will dictate where and how the claim will be taken to court.
The court will send a notice of the court allocation, and a list of instructions for both parties. These instructions will provide a hearing date and explain what evidence is needed for the case.
How to prepare your case
The case you present to the court will depend on your personal circumstances. Working with a solicitor is the best way to build the best possible case, but there are a few standard things you should look to include:
- An expert report on the issues you’re claiming against
- Receipts and expenses relating to the claim
- The evidence of the claim, such as a faulty item or pictures of an injury
Any notes, letters or other evidence you present to the court needs to be organised in date order, as this is the way the court will handle the case.
What to expect on the day of the court hearing
Small claims cases are usually less formal than larger cases. The judge will deal with each case individually, and can request any structure they feel is most suitable. It is the judge who will make the final call, and decide if you are successful or not.
If you are unsuccessful, you can make an appeal, but only with evidence that proves the result is irregular or unlawful. It should be made within 21 days, and there will be a fee attached.
Want to learn more?
If you want personalised advice for your claim, contact First4lawyers for a no obligation phone call to discuss your options. We can help you seek the justice you deserve, no matter how small the claim.
Note: First4lawyers offers this information as guidance, not advice. Before taking any action, you should seek professional assistance tailored to your personal circumstances and not rely on First4lawyers’ online information alone.