The preliminary stages of a civil claim

Which court?

A claim worth less than £100,000 is usually handled by the county court. The High Court generally handles claims above these amounts (apart from a personal injury claim which may be started in the High Court if the it is worth £50,000 or more).

The preliminary steps

A claim is started by the claimant (the person, business or organisation bring the claim) delivering a claim form and particulars of claim to the court, together with payment of the required court fee.

The claim form is a standard document which contains details of the parties and briefly describes the nature of the claim. It 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 straightforward 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 three copies of the claim form and particulars of claim (one for the claimant, one for the court and one for the defendant). If there is more than one claimant or defendant (the person, business or organisation against whom the claim is made) a 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 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 court will serve the documents on the defendant by post, together with a response pack. The response pack explains what the defendant needs 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 the claimant a notice of issue. This 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 they do this, they need 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, the claimant should write to the court explaining why. 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.

Filing a defence

If the defendant disputes the claim they will normally send 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 indicates that they intend to defend the claim. In completing this, the defendant indicates 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 to file their defence. If the defendant requires additional time they should request an extension of time from the claimant. If the claimant refuses the extension the defendant can apply to the court. If the request was reasonable, 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.

Article written by...
Lucy Trevelyan LLB
Lucy Trevelyan LLB

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Lucy graduated in law from the University of Greenwich, and is also an NCTJ trained journalist. A legal writer and editor with over 20 years' experience writing about the law.