Preparing for a Final Small Claims Hearing

Directions given in a case which has been allocated to the Small Claims Track

When a claim is allocated to the Small Claims Track the Court will normally, at the same, list the matter for a final hearing. At that point the Court will give the parties directions (a list of jobs the parties are required to do in order to prepare the case for the final hearing). Typically the parties will be required to send copies of any documents, including any expert reports, and witness statements upon which they intend to rely to the other party or parties and the Court by a certain date.

What documents should I send?

It is important to include any document which may help your case. In the following types of case such documents will typically include:

Contract cases

  • A copy of the contract, if there was one.

  • Any quotations, estimates, brochures or order forms.

  • Any invoices and receipts.

  • Any important correspondence between the parties.

  • Photographs for example where a holiday maker contends that the accommodation provided by a tour operator was of a lesser standard than that shown in the brochure or where a claim relates to the quality of building work carried out.

  • A list of any works complained about, a list of any outstanding works and estimates or receipts for remedial work if the claim relates to work carried out by a builder.

Property disputes

  • A copy of the title deeds relating to the property or properties in question.

  • A plan of the site. A rough sketch will normally suffice.

  • Photographs.

  • A report of a surveyor.

  • Any important correspondence between the parties.

Personal injury claims

  • A medical report.

  • Photographs.

  • A plan showing where the injury occurred.

  • Any important correspondence between the parties.

Road accident cases

  • A copy of the police accident report if one was prepared. These have to be requested from the police and normally take a while to arrive so any request should be made as soon as possible.

  • Invoices and estimates for repairs.

  • A plan showing where the accident occurred. A rough sketch will normally suffice.

  • Photographs of the scene of the accident and of the damage sustained.

  • Any agreements and invoices relating to additional expenses claimed such as car rental charges.

  • Any important correspondence between the parties.

What about witness statements?

It is important to provide a witness statement for any person who can and is willing to give evidence in support of your case. This will include your self.

The witness statement should set out in a chronological order the version of events of the witness. Generally it should be limited to the facts of the case and not give opinions particularly as to the other party in the case. The witness statement should state the name and address of the witness and should be set out using numbered paragraphs. At the end of the witness statement the words “I believe that the facts stated in this witness statement are true” should be added. The witness statement should be signed by the witness and dated.

Preparing a bundle of documents and witness statements

There is no requirement to prepare a formal bundle of documents and witness statements in the Small Claims Court. However, a bundle will normally assist and impress the judge so it is well worth doing. A good bundle will generally have 3 sections. The first section will include copies of the Claim Form, Particulars of Claim, Defence and any other important Court documents. The second section will include the witness statements and the third section will include the documents which should be arranged in date order starting with the earliest document. Each page of the bundle should be numbered in the bottom right hand corner and should generally be placed in a ring binder.

Final preparation for the hearing

Will I be able to ask questions of the other party at the hearing?

In most cases you will be allowed to ask the other party questions. It is, therefore, worth writing a list of the questions you would like to ask in advance of the hearing.

What about my witnesses?

It is important to ensure that your witnesses know the time and date of the hearing and where it is to take place.

What if I forgot to include an important document in my bundle or have obtained further documentation or an additional witness statement since I sent my bundle to the Court and the other party?

Any additional documents and witness statements should be sent to the Court and the other party as soon as possible. There is no guarantee that the judge will allow you to rely on any evidence served late. However, if the other party has had sufficient time to consider the additional evidence and you can provide a good explanation as to why it was served late the judge is likely to allow the evidence.

What costs and expenses can I claim?

Costs are limited in the Small Claims Court. A successful party can recover from the other party:

  • any Court fees incurred and if the proceedings were commenced by a solicitor, the fixed costs stated on the Claim Form.

  • Any loss of earnings or loss of leave a party or their witnesses have suffered as a consequence of attending the hearing can also be claimed by the successful party up to a maximum of £50.00 per day for each person.

  • If an expert’s report has been prepared a successful party can claim the cost of obtaining the report up to a maximum of £200.00.

  • A successful party can also claim the cost of any reasonable travel expenses incurred by himself and his witnesses in attending the hearing. 

  • It is worth preparing a list of the sums claimed in advance of the hearing as any costs or expenses claimed will be dealt with at the hearing once the judge has made their decision on the case. Any receipts for example, for the cost of obtaining an expert’s report or any bus, train or parking tickets should also be taken to the hearing.

Can I claim interest on any monies owed to me?

A successful party can claim interest on any damages it is awarded by the Court if a claim for interest has been included on the Claim Form. Generally interest is claimed at the Court rate of 8% per annum. It is worth preparing a calculation of any interest you wish to claim in advance of the hearing.

What should I wear for the hearing?

Clothing should be smart and conservative.

How should I address the Judge?

Small Claims are normally heard by District Judges and should, therefore, be addressed as sir or madam.

What if I am late for the hearing?

You should arrange to arrive at Court in good time for the hearing. If a party arrives late for a hearing the hearing may proceed in that party’s absence. If you are going to be late where ever possible you should telephone the Court and explain that you are going to be late, why you are going to be late and when you are likely to arrive at Court. The Court may be able to delay the hearing although there is no guarantee that they will.