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What are small claims?

In England and Wales, if a party or parties issue proceedings (take a matter to court), the court will decide which ‘track’ it will be allocated to. This decision will be based on such things as value and complexity of a case.

The small claims ‘track’ is a simplified procedural system for dealing with lower value claims. Small claims are usually for those of £10,000 or less. However, the value is assessed when the court ‘allocate’ and not when the claim is issued.

These types of claims are supposed to involve fewer complex rules and procedures. It is often quicker to resolve small claims disputes because there is no substantial pre-hearing process nor a traditional trial.

Parties can represent themselves in small claims hearings, can appoint a lay person or can utilise legal representatives if they choose to do so (but their fees are unlikely to be fully if at all recoverable).

There are opportunities to settle a small claim in similar ways to higher value claims. In addition, parties will be offered the opportunity to partake in a ‘small claims mediation’. This is a free service offered by the courts and often takes approximately one hour via telephone. During the process it is unlikely that the parties will talk with one another. The mediator will be given some background on the case and will telephone the parties in turn to discuss the claim and will try to invite parties to resolve the issue. The mediation process is confidential, and it cannot be referred to if a settlement is not achieved and the case proceeds to a hearing. If the case settles, it is recorded in a mediation agreement. The case is then stayed for 3 months so that any of the parties can reinstate the case if the mediation agreement is not complied with. If there is no breach, the claim is automatically struck out after 2 months.

If the case is not settled, it will proceed to a hearing – the hearing might be in a judge’s room but could be in open court.

If you are considering making a claim and need help or assistance please contact SHU Law on 01142255891/ 01142256666 or email enquiries@shulaw.co.uk

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