The Court will expect parties to a dispute to follow a ‘pre-action’ process before commencing legal action.
A letter of claim (sometimes known as a ‘letter before action’) forms part of that process. The letter of claim should set out the details of the claim and you are obliged to respond– so it’s important to not ignore such a letter if you receive one!
People are sent a letter of claim in a variety of circumstances. It may be that you have had some building work done on your house but you’re not happy with it, so you’ve become embroiled in a dispute with the builder over payment. It may be that you took out a loan or credit card but you’re now struggling to repay it. It may be that you are a company who has purchased a defective product and have a dispute over an invoice. Whatever the circumstances, here is some guidance on what you can do if you receive one.
1. Firstly…and most importantly…don’t ignore it! It won’t go away so it’s best to tackle it head on rather than burying your head in the sand.
2. Organise any paperwork that you have about the claim. Collate & retain all documents relating to the dispute. If you are a company that’s being sued, this may mean putting your document destruction policy on hold.
3. Create a timeline of events and conversations that includes any communication (meetings, phone calls, letters and email). When doing this try not to be one-sided and include an honest account of what was said by both parties.
4. Notify your insurer if you have insurance to cover legal expenses for this sort of claim.
5. Be cautious when creating new documents as they could become disclosable in any litigation that may follow.
6. Familiarise yourself with the Civil Procedure Rules particularly the Pre-Action Protocols, which will need following. Even if you decide to represent yourself (be a Litigant in Person) the court won’t give you any leeway for not knowing the rules.
7. Diarise the date for responding – the letter of claim may set out a deadline. Otherwise, for simple claims you should respond within 14 days of the date of the letter, or within 3 months for complex cases.
8. Consider your position on the case against you. A judge will expect both parties to have attempted to resolve things without involving the court so bear this in mind.
9. Be cautious about making any concessions or admissions.
10. Consider consulting a solicitor. We’d be happy to talk to you, free of charge, to see if we can help.
Contact Rebecca Draper at SHU Law for support with your dispute.
Call 0114 225 3082 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org