How does a civil court case start? 

The First procedure 

In most civil cases the first step for all the parties to take is to try and solve the situation without the need for any court proceedings. They are to provide each other with all the information required in order to come to an amicable decision.  

So before an issue is dealt with, a pre-action ‘protocol’ should be followed.  

What actions are taken by the parties? 

The information regarding the issue at hand is usually sent to the other party to the claim detailing how the claim has arisen, why the claim is against the other party and the details of any injuries or damage caused as a result of the incident.  

The defendant is then  given three months to investigate the claim, and must then reply with either an acceptance of liability or denial of liability and the reasons explaining the decision. 

If expert evidence is needed then the parties should try and use one expert.  

Which court to use? 

Where both parties cannot reach an agreement so the case has to go to court, the next decision is which court to use.  

The two courts that trial civil matters are: 

  • The county court
  • The High court 

For cases involving claims of £15,000 or les, the case must start at county court.  

If the case involves larger claims then you can usually decide which court you wish to use.  

High Court and County Court Jurisdiction order 1991 

This order set out the following guidelines regarding civil court claims: 

Personal injuries cases regarding claims of less than £50,000 must begin the process in the county court. 

Cases involving defamation claims must begin in the High Court 

If a case is started in one court, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the trial will take place in that court, The case may move courts if necessary.  

Issuing a Claim 

If a person decides to take their claim to County court, then they have the option to use any of the County Courts in the country, consisting of approximately 230 courts. 

If the claimant decides to take the matter to the High court then he will have to go to one of the 20 district registries or the main court in London.  

To make a claim, the form named ‘N1’ will have to be completed and returned.  

Defending a Claim 

When the defendant receives the claim form there are several routes that may be taken.  

They may admit the claim and pay the full amount of damages requested 

The defendant may dispute the claim, in which he will have to return a Form N9, or a defence to the court within 14days of receiving the claim form.  

If the defendant does nothing in receipt of the claim form, then the claimant may make a request to the court for an order that the defendant makes a payment of all the damages requested. This is called an order in default.  

If the defendant disputes the claim, then the court will allocate the most suitable ‘track’ for the claim to pursue. 

Allocation of Cases 

The decision on which track is best for the claim to follow will be made either by the District Judge of the County Court, or the Master (procedural) judge of the High Court depending on which court is used to issue the claim.  

What ‘Tracks’ can be used? 

There are three types of ‘tracks’ that civil cases may follow, these are, 

  • The small claims track: This is most commonly used for disputes involving claims under £5000, except for personal injury cases and housing cases where the limit is usually set at £1000. 
  • The Fast Track: This is most commonly used for straight forward disputes involving claims between £5000 and £15000. 
  • The Multi-track: This is usually used for cases involving claims of more than £15000 or claims under this barrier but involving complex issues.  

To help the judges in deciding what track to allocate the case, all parties to the case are sent a questionnaire to fill out. 

For claims over the limit of £15000, the judge may decide to transfer the matter to the High court or vice versa depending on where the issue was first established.