Civil Claims: Commencement of proceedings

Formal civil proceedings are generally started by the claimant completing a Claim form and sending it to the Court. The court will then seal the Claim form with its official seal and issue it.

This is important because time stops time running for limitation purposes once the Court has received the Claim for issue (ie. the time period within which court proceedings must be served). The clock then starts ticking for service of proceedings on the defendant. Generally, the Claim form must be served within four months of being issued by the Court.

Which court?

Proceedings are issued in the High Court or the County Court for a fee. The High Court will generally be used in money claims with a value exceeding £100,000 (or in a personal injury case where at least £50,000 is being claimed in compensation).

What is the Claim form?

For most proceedings, there is a general Claim form(N1) in which the claimant:

  • Sets out the names and addresses of all the parties (there may be more than one defendant)
  • Gives 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 started in the County Court, the compensation expected for pain, suffering and loss of amenity must be stated as being either below or above £1,000.

Particulars of Claim

The Claim form must either be accompanied by the Particulars of Claim, or the Particulars of Claim can be served separately. If served separately, it must be served within 14 days after service of the Claim form, provided that Particulars of Claim is served within 4 months after the date of issue of the claim form (or 6 months where the Claim form is to be served out of the jurisdiction).

If contained in a separate document, the Claim form must state that the Particulars of Claim are to follow.

Issuing of the Claim form

The Claimant (or their solicitors) need to make sure there are enough sealed copies of the Claim form to be served individual on each defendant, if there is more than one. The Claimant and the court will also need to retain one for their own use and records.

The Court issues the Claim form by sealing the claim forms, and enters details of the claim in its records. Sealed copies are then returned to the Claimant or their solicitors for service.

Service of proceedings

The rules for service of Claim forms (and other court documents) are necessarily complex because of the numerous types of circumstance that arise. Some defendants are overseas, some try to evade service of court proceedings, some defendants have no known address, and so on. For this reason, Claim forms can be served in almost any way, including by personal service, by post and through electronic communication. Where necessary, the Claim form may even be served via social media where you have run out of options (though the court’s permission to do so will be required).

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 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.

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.