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Making a claim for debt recovery

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If someone owes you money and you can't settle things in any other way, you may decide to issue a claim through the courts. People also issue claims for other reasons, including:

  • Bad workmanship
  • Damage to their property
  • Road traffic accidents
  • Personal injury
  • Goods not supplied
  • Faulty goods

England & Wales

In order to claim in court, you have to issue a claim in the correct tier of the courts. This depends mainly on the sum being claimed and the type of claim. In most cases, your claim will be heard in the county court. You will sometimes hear people talk about the 'small claims court'. What they really mean is the special procedure for handling smaller claims in a county court.

The system for handling smaller claims in the 'small claims track' is designed to be quick, cheap and easy to use. But it will usually only apply to claims for £10,000 or less (or £1,000 or less if the claim is for personal injury or housing disrepair), against a person, firm or company in England and Wales. Courts in Scotland have their own legal system.

Claims of more than £10,000 are generally dealt with differently in either the 'fast track' or the 'multi-track'.

There are time restrictions for issuing claims so if you ever feel you have a claim you shouldn't waste time or put it off.

Do I have to make a claim?

No. Until recently, if you had a legal problem, you would normally have gone to a court or tribunal in what is often called 'litigation'. While this is still a common way of sorting out such problems, individuals often find that going to court is expensive and can be stressful.

There are now a number of other ways of sorting out complaints and legal problems, including things like arbitration, mediation and ombudsmen schemes. These are often called 'alternative dispute resolution' (ADR) schemes.

Court rules require you to think about whether alternative dispute resolution is a better way to reach an agreement before going to court. If you refuse to consider this, you may not get your costs back, or the court may order you to pay the other party's costs, even if you win the case.

Northern Ireland

In order to claim in court, you have to issue a claim in the correct tier of the courts. This depends mainly on the sum being claimed and the type of claim. You will sometimes hear people talk about the 'small claims court'. What they really mean is the special procedure for handling smaller claims in a county court.

The system for handling smaller claims in the 'small claims court' is designed to be quick, cheap and easy to use. But it will usually only apply to claims for £3,000 or less, against a person, firm or company in Northern Ireland.

Claims of more than £3,000 (up to £15,000) are generally dealt with in the county court.

There are time restrictions of 6 years for issuing claims, so if you ever feel you have a claim, you shouldn't waste time or put it off.

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