Starting a Claim Yourself: The Pitfalls
Judith Thompson 15-10-2014
The number of people starting court claims themselves has increased dramatically over the last year. This is partly because the small claims limit has risen from £5,000 to £10,000, legal aid is only available for a few areas of law, and because traditional CFA ("no win no fee") agreements have changed.
Before 1 April 2013, judges were more forgiving to people running their own cases, who did not understand the complex curt rules, or missed deadlines set down by the Court. However this is no longer the case.
Some of the problems you could run into are as follows:
- If you do not enter into the correct correspondence with your opponent before you start court proceedings, you could be ordered to pay your opponent's costs, even if you win;
- If you do not start the claim off correctly, with the correct documentation, your claim could be delayed or struck out and you could be ordered to pay your opponent's costs;
- If you miss any of the Court's deadlines, your claim could be struck out and you could be ordered to pay your opponent's costs - the Court is unlikely to be sympathetic if you miss deadlines because you do not understand the Court's orders;
- If you do not use the correct court forms for filing documents such as applications and budgets, you could lose your entitlement to your own costs and be ordered to pay your opponent's costs;
- You may not be up to date with the most current case law which could help you win your claim;
- If you are pressured by an opponent, you could end up settling for a lot less than your claim is worth;
- You could find yourself in court against an opponent who has legal representation which puts you at a disadvantage;
- Even if you win your case, you may find that you have a judgment that you cannot enforce.
The Court's rules are complex and the consequences of getting things wrong can be disastrous financially, and can mean that you won't be able to bring your claim (even if it's a very good claim).
To avoid these problems, you should speak to a solicitor at the outset. If you are worried about fees, we will give you a free initial assessment of your claim, in most cases. If you have a strong case, we will discuss your funding options with you. We always try to be as flexible as possible to ensure that you can obtain access to justice.
If you have already run into problems, we can still help.
Contact us today for your free no obligation assessment of your case.