I've Received a Claim Form, Help!
What to do if you have received a claim form
If you have received a claim form, usually on Court form N1, it means that someone (the claimant) is suing you. If you ignore the claim form, the claimant will be able to enter judgment against you, and then pursue you for the money they are claiming (using a bailiff for example). You would have a CCJ against your name, which would seriously affect your credit rating.
The claim form cannot be ignored, and we set out below the various steps you should take if you have received a claim form. The information set out below is not specific advice about your case, but highlights some of the procedural steps which are required when a claim is served upon you. You will need specific advice about how to deal with the claim against you.
Was the claim served properly?
For the claim to be valid, it has to have been served properly. "Service" is the way in which the N1 claim form was given to you. In particular, it should have been sent to you with other papers called the "Response Pack". If you did not receive a Response Pack with the claim form, it has not been properly served, and you can take steps to have the claim stopped.
The claim form should tell you what the claim is about. If it doesn't, then you can make an application to the court (see further below) to stop the claim progressing.
Was the claim issued in time?
A claimant only has a certain amount of time to start a claim against you. There are different time limits for different types of claims. A claim based on a breach of contract, or professional negligence, cannot be brought, if the right to bring the claim arose more than six years ago. This six year time limit also applies to debt claims, or claims for money. If the claim is for libel or slander, the claim has to be brought within one year.
If the claim is brought outside of these time limits, you can ask the court to strike out the claim, which would mean it could not continue.
How do I respond to a claim?
The Response Pack should contain a document called an "Acknowledgement of Service", also known as form N9(CC). You have only 14 days (which starts running on the day the claim form was served on you) to return the Acknowledgement of Service form to the Court.
If you agree that you owe the money which is claimed in the claim form, you can tell the court this on the Acknowledgement of Service Form and you can make proposals for payment using documents sent to you in the Response Pack.
If you do not agree that you owe the money claimed, you need to tick the box stating that you will defend all or part of the claim and return the Acknowledgement of Service form to the court.
If you tick the box stating that you want to defend the claim, you then have a further 14 days, to send a defence to the court, and to your opponent. This can be done using either Court form N9B or N9D (depending on the type of claim), or you can prepare your own defence document.
If you instruct solicitors to prepare the defence for you, it is very likely that they will recomment that a separate defence document is prepared.
What if I am the one who is owed money?
If you think the claimant actually owes you money, then you can start a counterclaim against them. This should be sent to your opponent and the court at the same time as the defence, and can be contained in the same document. You will need to pay a fee to start a counterclaim. Your opponent then has to acknowledge your counterclaim, and send you a defence to your counterclaim, unless the counterclaim is admitted.
Making an application to the court
If the claim has not been served on you properly, if the claim was not brought in time, or if the claim doesn't explain properly why you owe the money, you can make an application to the court to have the claim stopped. The application has to be made on Court form N244, and should be accompanied by a witness statement. A fee is payable when the application is made.
The court will either deal with your application on paper (without a hearing), or you will need to go to a hearing to explain to a judge why your application ought to be granted. If your application is successful, the usual rule is that your opponent would have to pay the majority of the costs you have incurred.
What if I need help dealing with the claim?
If you need assistance to deal with a claim against you, Samuels Solicitors is a niche litigation practice with all of the expertise you need. We have advised a huge number of clients over the years, helping with anything from small claims, to disputes worth millions of pounds.
We can take over running the claim or defence for you and deal with the court and your opponent on your behalf. If you are worried about the costs involved, we can take more of a back seat, just advising you at key points where you need assistance.
What about legal costs?
We will initially assess any claim for free.
If you have a good claim, or good defence to a claim, we will consider taking the matter for you on a conditional (no win no fee) basis. We are always happy to have a discussion with you about fees, and find the best funding option for you.
We will keep you informed about costs so that there are no nasty surprises.
What should I do next?
To speak to an expert litigation solicitor, contact us today.