Civil Claims: Commencement of proceedings

Introduction to commencing proceedings

Proceedings are commenced usually by issuing a claim form. Issuing involves the court sealing the form with its official seal. This is an important event, because it stops time running for limitation purposes, and starts time running for service. Generally, a claim form must be served within four months of being issued.

Which court?

Proceedings are issued in the High Court or the County Court. The High Court can generally be used in money claims with a value exceeding £15,000. A major exception is personal injuries cases, which can only be started in the High Court if they have a value exceeding £50,000.

The claim form

For most proceedings there is a general purpose claim form. A completed claim form will:

  • Set out the names and addresses of the respective parties;
  • Give a concise statement of the nature of the claim;
  • State the remedy sought; and
  • Contain a statement of value where the claim is for money. 

In personal injuries claims the amount expected for pain, suffering and loss of amenity must be stated as being either below or above £1,000.

Particulars of claim

It can be included in the claim form or be set out in a separate document. If a separate document is used it must be served either with the claim form, or within 14days after service of the claim form, and in any event within the period of validity of the claim form (usually four months from issue). If contained in a separate document the claim form must state that the particulars are either attached or will follow. 

Issuing the claim form

The claimant’s solicitors will make sufficient copies of the claim form for themselves, the court and each defendant. They retain one, and send the others to the court office, together with the prescribed fee under cover of a letter asking for the claim to be issued. Technically, time stops running for limitation purposes when a claim is ‘brought.’ A claim is ‘brought’ when it is delivered to the court, whereas a claim is ‘issued’ when it is sealed by the court office. The date a claim form is sealed is often the best evidence of when it is bought. The court issues the claim by sealing the claim forms, and enters details of the claim in its records.

Money Claim online

Most simple money claims with a value up to £100,000 can be issued electronically using a scheme known as ‘Money Claim Online.’ Service is affected by the court, and is deemed to be effected on the fifth day after issue irrespective of whether that day is a business day or not. Defendants can respond either electronically or by using hard copies. If no response is obtained, judgment can be entered in default by filing an electronic request. Electronic claims are transferred to the defendant’s home court on various events, including the filing of a defence.

Filing

Documents are filed by being delivered to the court. Filing takes effect immediately if documents are posted through the court’s letter box, even if the court is closed at the time. If the court is closed on the final day for filing a document, filing will be in time if effected on the next day the court is open.