Legal action in the small claims court

From disputes with retailers who refuse to take the blame for their faulty goods, to contesting unfair parking tickets, you can use the small claims court process for many problems

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The average time between issuing a small claim and actually going to court is 35 weeks, according to Ministry of Justice statistics (pdf), so it’s best to move forward with legal action sooner rather than later.

At First4Lawyers, our small claims solicitors can provide you with specialist help, advice and court representation. Just contact us for more information.

What is a small claims court?

A small claims court is a local court - usually a county court -  where claims for smaller sums of money owed by a person or business are decided cheaply and quickly.  You might also hear it referred to as just 'making a court claim'.

The total you can take to small claims in England and Wales is £10,000, in Scotland it's £5,000 and in Northern Ireland it's £3,000.

However if you're making a claim for housing disrepair or personal injury, the maximum limit is £1,000.

How do I file a claim at a small claims court?

You must file a brief description of your claim at court before paying a court fee. The claim form will include ‘particulars of claim’, which allows you to give an account of why you (the claimant) believe the respondent owes you money.

The respondent must then decide whether they wish to say they owe the money, or else file a defence.

If they do neither of these things within 14 days, then you may obtain an order from the court which instructs the respondent to pay in 'default' of a response.

When beginning a claim it is important to ensure that your documents give the correct amount of detail and make clear the legal basis for your claim. A good solicitor can be key here.

What is involved in the small claims court hearing?

The small claims hearing could take place in the judge’s room or a county court. It will most likely be a location closest to the home or business premises of the respondent.

At court, you will put the matter before a district judge in the form of a witness statement and other evidence.

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Should I settle out of court?

The amount you recover through the small claims court isn’t likely to be much more than an out-of-court settlement.

With the prospect of costly court fees in mind, you may wish to consider whether other less costly avenues would be more appropriate.

For example, if your claim relates to the conduct of financial services, you may wish to go to the Financial Ombudsman Service.

A lawyer experienced in the relevant legal area can help ensure you get the right result even if you don’t ultimately need representation at a small claims court.

How can I enforce the judgement if I win?

If you win your case but get no response from the defendant, you may need to ask the court to issue an enforcement judgment ordering them to pay.  You will have to pay a fee to do this. 

If you still get no response there are a few options still:

  • Go back to court to establish what the debtor can afford to pay
  • Send High Court bailiffs to collection what you're owed - you can apply to the County Court or High Court for debts between £600 and £5,000.
  • Ask the court to take money directly from the debtor's salary
  • Ask the court to freeze the debtor's bank account

In all these cases, it's best to seek legal advice to establish your best option.

I want legal advice about a small claim – what should I do?

First4Lawyers can help with all your small claims matters through our fixed fee services, be it checking the validity of your claim, or producing letters and documentation to help your case through the small claims process. 

Contact us today to discuss the costs of these services and how we can help you.

Get in touch today to discuss your requirements 08005677866

How to guides

Learn more about this area of the law and what you need to know:

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I was dealt with the most kind and caring manner by Rebeka. Also very efficient by explaining everything I had to know and connecting me to a solicitors who would deal with my claim. Thank you!

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