Small claims in civil proceedings is seen as a relatively cheap, fast and easy way for a claimant to pursue damages.
The parties to the claim are usually encouraged to take their own case to court in order to keep the overall costs down. However, it is still possible for a person to have a lawyer to act on their behalf in small claims procedure with the understanding that a person using a representative cannot claim the cost back from any damages awarded of using a lawyer.
If a person wishes to have someone representing them in court, but cannot afford the expense of a lawyer they may wish to a lay representative, who is not a legally qualified representative , but is able to help on cases.
Advantages of small Claims in civil proceedings
- The cost of taking proceedings to court is low, especially for claims under the £1000
- If you loose the case you are not responsible for the winning parties lawyers fees
- People can take the action to court themselves, do not have to use a lawyer
- Quicker procedure
- District judge will explain the process
Disadvantages of small claims in civil proceedings
- For cases involving claims over £1000, allocation costs have to be paid
- Legal funding for lawyer costs is unavailable
- If one party is a business and the other is a consumer, there may be an unfair disadvantage regarding one being able to afford legal help and the other not.
The main cases covered in county court include:
- Contract and tort claims
- Any loss for recovery of land
- Disputes regarding inheritance, trusts or partnerships up to a claim of £30,000
The County Court does also have the ability to hear divorce cases, bankruptcy hearings and race relation issues.
The Majority of cases heard in County Court will be heard in front of an open court in which any member of the public can watch.
There are certain exceptions were cases are heard in private, these will include:
- Family matters, and or,
- Hearings under the Children Act 1989
Fast Track cases
Once a case has been defended, the district judge at the county court will send out the allocation questionnaire to all the parties involved, before making his decision on what track to allocate to the claim in hand.
Fast track basically means that the court will set out a very strict time table in order to deal with all pre trial matters. This was introduced to stop either party wasting time in order to build up the final damages claim they are fighting for.
Once the preliminary pre-trial has been before the court, the court will aim for the matter to be brought to court for a full hearing within 30weeks.
The actual trial is most likely to be heard by a circuit judge in an open court.
The hearing will be limited to a maximum of 1day, and the number of expert witnesses used will be restricted, usually to 1 witness depending on the situation.
Claims of more than £15,000 are usually allocated to multi-track.
The case will b heard by a circuit judge, who’s responsibility it becomes to manage the case from beginning to end.
The judge has the discretion to set timetable if he feels necessary and may request that the parties embark on alternative dispute resolutions.
The High court is based in London, but also has judges sitting in 26 towns and cities through England and Wales.
The High court consists of three divisions which specialise in hearing particular types of cases.
Queen’s Bench division
The president on the Queen’s Bench division is the Lord Chief Justice and there are nearly 70 judges sitting in the division.
The Queen’s Bench division deals with contract and tort claims exceeding £50,000.
There is a special division within the Queen’s Bench division that deals with insurances, banking and other commercial matters
This division will deal with shipping claims such as claims regarding damage caused by collision at sea. T will also discuss salvage rights were a ship has sunk or been abandoned.