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Bringing a small claim in the county court

By January 17, 2017January 29th, 2021Litigation

Generally for cases worth less than £10,000 and you cannot expect to recover much more than the court fee.

As a general rule the loser pays a contribution towards the winner’s costs. However, this rule is not always followed and it is within the discretion of the judge to make a different order – and they often do.

Further, the court can increase or reduce the amount your opponent is ordered to pay you for a number of other reasons:

the conduct of each party towards the dispute before the proceedings were started,
the way each party conducted the proceedings,
the efforts made to settle the case,
the importance of the case to the parties,
the complexity of the case

The courts are encouraging litigants more and more to bring small claims themselves.Claims with a value of less than £10,000, or £1,000 for a personal injury claim, fall under the remit of the small claims track. These claims are limited in terms of cost recovery.Therefore if you instruct a solicitor to act in bringing a claim in the small claims track, their costs are not likely to be recoverable. The general rule is that the loser pays the costs, although costs are always at the discretion of the court. This means even if you win your case you may still end up out of pocket for legal fees.It is important to ensure that any fees paid are proportionate to the amount in dispute. If for example you have a claim worth £9,000 and pay £1,000 to recover the same it could be said to be money well spent. If you have a claim worth £1,500 and need to pay £1,000 in legal fees to recover this amount it would not be proportionate. For this reason the court are encouraging more and more people to bring lower value and less complicated claims themselves. There are many useful guides provided by the court and also the Citizens Advice Bureau Small Claims which can help you if you do intend to bring a claim yourself. It is also important to remember that litigation should be the last resort. It is always better to suggest early negotiation/mediation as a quick and cost effective way of settling your dispute. If your dispute is regarding a regulatory body then there is usually a complaints procedure and/or a regulatory body where you can complain.  For example if your complaint is about a financial institution you could refer your complaint to the financial ombudsman your claim is for money then it is also important before commencing any action that you are satisfied that the other party can pay.  There is little value in commencing a county court action and obtaining a judgement or order if the other party has no means of paying it.When bringing a small claim yourself you will have to pay the court fees, although in certain circumstances you may be able to obtain a discount or have the fee waived.  If you have to pay the fees, these fees can add up quite quickly and you will also have to factor in the time it will take you in dealing with and preparing your case, small claims can take months and sometimes years to go before a court and a lot of work can be involved.If you do decide to bring a small claim yourself then we can help you as and when you need it.  Whether that be an initial advice as to the merits of your case, or the drafting of the claim form, or witness statements, or assisting with the final hearing.  We offer work on a fixed fee basis so that you can be sure how much it is going to cost from the outset.

Alison Rocca

Author Alison Rocca

Alison is a solicitor in our Litigation department.

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