Generally a claim worth less than £25,000, or in the case of a personal injury claim, a claim worth less than £50,000 is handled by the County Court. The High Court generally handles claims above these amounts.
In most cases it is open to the Claimant to commence their claim in the County or High Court of their convenience.
The Preliminary Steps
A claim is started by the Claimant (the person, business or organisation bring the claim) sending or delivering to the Court a Claim Form and Particulars of Claim together with payment of the Court fee which is payable upon the issuing of proceedings.
The Claim Form is a standard document which contains details of the parties and describes very briefly the nature of the claim. A Claim Form can be obtained from the Court office or found on the Court Service’s website.
The Particulars of Claim set out in more detail what the claim is about. In straight forward cases there will be sufficient room on the reverse of the Claim Form to include the Particulars of Claim. In more complex cases a separate document is needed which should be headed with the name of the Court where the claim is to commence, the names of the parties and marked Particulars of Claim.
The Court will usually require 3 copies of the Claim Form and Particulars of Claim (1 for the Claimant, 1 for the Court and 1 for the Defendant). If there is more than 1 Claimant or Defendant (the person, business or organisation against whom the claim is made) an additional copy for each additional party will be required.
The amount of the Court fee payable will depend upon the nature and, if the claim is for money, the value of the claim. Information as to Court fees can be obtained from the Court office or found on the Court Service’s website.
Issue and Service of the Claim Form and Particulars of Claim
Once the Court has received the Claim Form, Particulars of Claim and payment of the Court fee it will issue (stamp) the documents and in most cases, serve the Claim Form and Particulars of Claim on the Defendant.
The Claimant can serve the documents themselves although in practice most Claimants let the Court serve the documents.
The Court will serve the documents on the Defendant simply by sending them by first class post. At the same time the Court will send the Defendant a Response Pack. The Response Pack explains to the Defendant what they need to do next and contains forms for them to fill in.
Notice of Issue
Where the Court serves the documents on the Defendant it will send to the Claimant a Notice of Issue. This is a document which confirms that the Claim Form and Particulars of Claim have been issued and served on the Defendant. It will also state the date upon which the documents were sent to the Defendant and the date upon which service is deemed to be affected. The date of deemed service will be the second business day after the documents were posted to the Defendant.
The Defendant’s Response
The Defendant is required to respond to the Claim Form and Particulars of Claim within 14 days from the date of deemed service. The Defendant can respond in one of the following ways:
Filing an Admission
If the Defendant does not dispute the claim they will often complete and send to the Court a form, which was contained in the Response Pack, called an Admission.
If an Admission is filed it is open to the Claimant to ask the Court to enter judgment.
The Admission form, in the case of a money claim, allows the Defendant to request time to pay the sum claimed by the Claimant. If the Defendant requests time to pay they will have to set out details of their income and outgoings on the Admission form and indicate how much they would be able to pay and when. The Court will then send a copy of the Admission to the Claimant and ask them to confirm whether the payments offered by the Defendant are acceptable. If they are not acceptable the Claimant should write to the Court explaining why they are not acceptable. A judge will then decide how much and when the Defendant should pay. Sometimes the parties will be invited to attend a hearing at Court to make representations as to how much should be paid and when.
Filing a Defence
If the Defendant disputes the claim they will normally send to the Court a Defence. A Defence sets out in detail the reasons why the Defendant disputes the claim.
Filing an Acknowledgment of Service
An Acknowledgment of Service is a form in which the Defendant simply indicates that they intend to defend the claim. In completing the Acknowledgment of Service the Defendant will have to indicate whether they intend to defend all or part of the claim and whether they intend to dispute the jurisdiction of the Court.
If the Defendant files an Acknowledgment of Service they will have an additional 14 days in which to file their Defence. If the Defendant requires additional time they should request an extension of time from the Claimant or the Claimant’s solicitor if they have one. If the Claimant or their solicitor refuses to grant an extension of time the Defendant should apply to the Court for an extension of time. A Claimant can be criticised by the Court for not granting an extension of time to a Defendant if the request was reasonable and if the Defendant has to seek an extension of time from the Court the Court may order the Claimant to pay the Defendant’s costs of the application.
Failure to Respond
If the Defendant fails to respond to the Claim Form and Particulars of Claim the Claimant is free to file a Request for Judgment in Default with the Court. There is a standard form which the Claimant can use for this purpose.