How to launch a small claim in court

You often hear the term "small claims court", where cases are heard in county courts after being placed on a small claims track.

Cases on the small claims track are for disputed monetary amounts of up to £5000, claims of up to £1,000 in cases of personal injury, and up to £1,000 in cases of faulty home repair.

But how does it actually all work? And are you eligible to file for such a case before employing a couple of heavies to help you sort things out? Here are five steps involved in having a county court hear your small claims case.

1. Try to work out an agreement with the other party before making a claim in court. Before actually bringing a claim to court, send the other party a letter notifying him or her that you will take legal action if they do not respond in a timely manner (usually a fortnight). You can find an example of the type of letter you should send here. If you get no satisfaction that way, then...

2. Get a claim form from the County Court, or download it from HM Court Service, then fill it in. You will give your personal details, who you are claiming against, and other specifics of your claim. If it is a personal injury claim, list your expenses and losses, both leading up to the time and anticipated in the future. Keep at least one copy of the form, and give two others to the court when you pay your filing fee. The filing fee will depend on the size of the claim, and your ability to pay it. The court will next serve the claim on the defending party.

3. Have the defendant served, then wait for the response. The "date of service" on the defendant is defined as two days after the claim is filed. From that time the defendant has 14 days in which to respond to the plaintiff. The defendant may agree to your claim, in which case you will need to make arrangements for a lump sum payment, or a schedule of payments over time until the claim is paid. If the defendant does not agree to your claim, you will both be given "allocation questionnaires" which you both send back with the allocation fee. If the case falls in the parameters of the small claims track, that is where it will head. You'll both receive a notice telling the date and time of your hearing.

4. Be on time and attentive at the hearing. During the hearing, strict rules of evidence don't apply, and the judge deals with the hearing in any way that he believes to be fair. You do not need a solicitor, though you may bring a trusted friend with you to the hearing to speak on your behalf. The judge can limit the time parties or witnesses have to give evidence. You can have a lay representative speak on your behalf, but only if they appear in person at the hearing.

5. Wait for the judgment. The judge will render his judgment when the hearing is over. The judge must specify reasons for the judgment and they must be explained in understandable terms. If you win, you'll get the court fees back and the defendant will be ordered to pay your claim. If you lose, you won't get the court fees back, but you will probably not be charged any further costs.

Appeals are only allowed in the case of serious mistakes in the hearing process. If the judge rules in your favour and the defendant fails to pay the debt, you can ask the court to recover the money on your behalf by enforcing a judgment.

Whether it's the actual money or the vindication, the small claims track is a way for those seemingly unresolveable disputes over a few hundred quid to be settled once and for all, without the need for hiring a solicitor. I can think of a couple of times I should have gone this route, actually. Your thoughts?


  • Mike e.
    That bird in the photo reminds me that it is National Melons day, so lets all get out there and grab some nice juicy melons, I know I have, have you?
  • The B.
    It's an absolute pain in the arse of a procedure though, plus you have to waste half a day down there peeing around waiting for your invariably late session, to spend a full 15 minutes with some doddering old fart who doesn't know what the internet is.
  • The B.
    Mike, are you A) Working for the National Melon Marketing Board currently? B) Just a perv? C) A little from column A and a little from column B?
  • Eddy
    what about D? D) A straight Bloke!
  • Mike e.
    All of the above, get you melons out ladies, it's National Melons day!
  • Sam
    Hey thanks for this. I've had some problems with AVIS and I think this might be the only way to get through to them.
  • Eddy
    Thanks for this though. Im about to take my partners employer through this process after not paying part of her wages. Unfortunatly she was onlt there a few weeks hence why i think it would be pointless going through the tribunal route.
  • TeflonMan
    Not sure about having to download, fill in, and send forms - ?? I've just lodged a small claim against a dodgy travel agent yesterday on the moneyclaim online website of Her Majesty's Court Service, and the initial action is all done online.
  • zeddy
    " And the winner is....." You love, congratulations! Now get your clothes off.
  • Mike e.
    "You love, congratulations! Now get your clothes off." It is national Melons day, afterall...
  • Nobby
    We've only got grapes in my office.
  • Gary
    Went down this route a few years ago with an ebay seller who refused to give me a refund. Won the case and got £50 extra for taking the day off work and £100 travelling expenses on top of original costs and £30 claims fee. Hopefully taught the seller an expensive lesson!
  • Diamond D.
    'If you lose, you won’t get the court fees back, but you will probably not be charged any further costs.' I always considered going down the court route but have always been warned off that I may have to pay out in the event if I lose a case. In what situations would I probably have to pay further costs?
  • danger d.
    if its small claims, there are no further costs to pay if you lose other than the type of expenses that Gary mentioned. Even if the other person turns up with a solicitor, they cannot recover the legal costs.
  • Jefferson K.
    hey what theme is this blog? I digg it :) very nice thanks for the great post too my friend.

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