Proceedings at Court are issued after an initial claim form letter or pre-action protocol letter has been sent. The amount of the Court fee will depend upon what remedy you are seeking and how much you are claiming. The higher the figure claimed, the more it will cost you in Court fees, so it is important to be realistic. The amount claimed will also have an effect on the way in which the case is managed at Court. Claims are allocated to one of three tracks:
- The small claims track – this is for claims of up to £5,000 (£1,000 in personal injury cases)
- The fast track - for claims between £5,000 and £15,000 (between £1,000 and £15,000 in personal injury cases)
- The Multi-track for claims over £15,000
Other types of cases, for example applications for an injunction or a declaration will be allocated usually after an initial case management hearing at Court or after a defence has been lodged by the defendant.
If you are bringing proceedings you will be known as “the claimant”.
At the case management hearing a timetable will be laid down by the Judge which will list all the preparation that has to be done in order for the claim to be heard at a final hearing or trial. The length of the trial will depend upon how much documentation is involved and how many witnesses each side will be calling. Witness statements will be prepared and exchanged with the other side prior to the hearing so that each side knows how the other side is going to present its case.
Relevant documents to be relied on will also be disclosed to the other side well in advance of the hearing.
At the end of the trial the Judge will deliver a judgment setting out his findings on the law and the particular facts of your case.
If you win your case and the losing party does not comply with the judgment you will need to consider the various ways in which a judgment can be enforced.
The usual costs rule is “costs in the event” which means that the successful party normally recovers costs from his opponent. There is, however, usually a shortfall between what the successful party has paid out in legal fees and the amount that can be recovered from the losing party.
The Small Claims Court is a Court which is set up to deal with claims for small amounts of money. The current level is under £5,000. However if your claim is for personal injury it would only be heard in the Small Claims Court if the claim for the injury itself is not more than £1,000.
No costs are awarded in the Small Claims Court apart from Court fees.
If you win in the Small Claims Court you can claim what is known as “fixed costs” for example any Court fee, but not the cost of any legal representation which you may have used. You can claim travel expenses and loss of earnings.
In certain cases the Court does have a discretion to award costs if a party has behaved unreasonably.
The usual rule is that the losing party will pay the other side’s costs of bringing the claim to the Court, but there are exceptions to this which we will advise you about if necessary. The successful party can recover the Court fees including the claim issue fee and any other Court fees which have been paid, for example the allocation questionnaire fee, which is the fee paid when completing a form so as to assist the Court in deciding whether to allocate the claim to the Small Claims Court, the Fast Track or the Multi-track. It also includes solicitors’ and barristers’ costs and any other disbursements, namely any other expenses that might have been incurred, such as travel or photocopying.
However, you do not always recover all the costs at the same rate as you have paid to your own solicitor so there is sometimes a shortfall in the amount you have paid to your solicitor and the amount you may get back.