How to Make a Small Claim Successfully
Have your suppliers let you down with unacceptable products or services? Are they rejecting your calls for a refund? Is a client unjustifiably refusing to pay your bills? Of course, you will probably never work with those suppliers or clients again. But what happens right now?
If you believe you are owed money by a person or business, you can apply to a county court to resolve that claim. This process is known as making a ‘court claim’ and used to be called taking someone to a ‘small claims court’.
Here are eight points to remember:
- As in all legal matters, precision is paramount and taking the advice of a solicitor is recommended. If your claim goes to a hearing, you can pay a barrister or solicitor to represent you.
- The court claim process is different in England and Wales to Scotland and Northern Ireland. These notes concern the process in England.
- If you are claiming for a fixed sum of money, you can make your claim online. If, however, you are claiming for an unspecified amount of money, you will need to download and complete a form (N1) provided by the HM Courts & Tribunals Service.
- You will have to pay a court fee when you make a claim. Fees vary depending on factors such as the size of the claim you are making and whether you are making your claim online or through the N1 form. (An online claim is less expensive than an N1 claim.) For example, an online claim for under £300 would involve a court fee of £25, whereas a claim for over £200,000, made through a form, would involve a court fee of £10,000. You may be able to claim the costs back if you win the case.
- A mediation service might be a faster and more cost-effective option than making a court claim. Mediation is when an impartial person helps the opposing parties try to reach an agreement. You should at least attempt to settle your dispute before making a court claim. Ultimately, a judge might not award you costs (your legal expenses) if he or she thinks you have made no effort to resolve the matter out of court. For example, if you believe you have been supplied with a faulty product or inadequate service, you should not make a court claim before even contacting the supplier in question.
- If you do proceed with a claim, the person or business allegedly owing you the money (known as the ‘defendant’) must respond within 14 days of receiving your claim. Should the defendant fail to do so, you can ask the court to order the payment to be made.
- You can claim interest on the money you are owed.
- You may have to go to a court hearing if the defendant, for example, denies owing you any money or disagrees with the sum of money you are claiming. The decision will be made on the day of the hearing and the court will also send you a copy of the decision by post. If you win the case, the court will order the person or business owing you the money (the ‘defendant’ now becomes the ‘debtor’) to pay you.
Let’s hope you never have to make a court claim. Disputes, however, are sometimes unavoidable. Acting reasonably and following the correct procedures will maximise your chances of a successful outcome. Whether you need an employment solicitor, property litigation solicitors or a specialist divorce lawyer, Guillaumes LLP are able to assist you.