Upon first being consulted we will take your detailed instructions. We will then give you our initial view of the facts and law and advise you on the issues involved and options available to you. We will discuss with you the likely costs and funding options and the time scales involved.
We will confirm our assessment in writing. We will then commence initial enquiries on your behalf and contact your opponent. Thereafter we will report any significant developments and advise you throughout the claim generally. In particular, we will review the value and strength of your claim and the likely cost of pursuing the claim. We will monitor the costs that have been incurred and which we estimate will occur.
We will interview all relevant witnesses of fact and prepare the evidence to support your case.
We will contact your opponents on a regular basis with a view to negotiating an early settlement of your claim where this is appropriate.
The Protocol requires potential Claimants to write a letter of claim to the Defendant giving a clear summary of the facts on which the claim is based. You must give sufficient information to allow your opponent to investigate the claim fully. If you are the Claimant, we will prepare the letter of claim for you.
The Protocol requires Defendants to respond fully to the letter of claim within a reasonable period. If you are the Defendant, we will prepare your letter of response.
What you say in the initial letter will have a bearing on the claim, if it proceeds to court. It is vital that the information in the letter is correct. We will expect you to approve the content of the letter.
Offers to settle
If relevant to your matter we will discuss the tactics, procedure and consequences of making and receiving offers.
Commencement of proceedings
If you start the proceedings, you are the ‘Claimant’. If your opponent issues proceedings against you, you are the ‘Defendant’. The value of the claim will largely determine whether it is allocated to the small claims track (for claims up to £5,000), the fast track (for claims between £5,000 and £25,000) or the multi-track (for higher value claims or claims of a particularly complex nature).
We will attend to the drafting of your statement of case, which sets out the arguments to support your case, and all relevant court paperwork.
The nature, complexity and subject matter of your claim will determine the timescales involved. There may be protracted negotiations with your opponent before proceedings are commenced. It is not possible at the outset to provide you with any meaningful estimate of timescales. By way of illustration, we set out the standard timetable for a typical fast track claim from the date of the Notice of Allocation:
- disclosure of documents – 4 weeks
- exchange of witness statements – 10 weeks
- exchange of expert’s reports – 14 weeks
- sending out of pre-trial checklists by the court – 20 weeks
- filing of completed pre-trial checklists – 22 weeks
- hearing – 30 weeks
The term ‘directions’ refers to any order given by the court which tells the parties, or one party, to do something. As well as telling parties what they have to do to prepare for a court hearing, directions will also tell parties when they must do it by. Sometimes one party will have to do something before another party and sometimes parties must all act simultaneously.
Your duty to search for and to disclose documents (disclosure)
The Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) require all parties to exchange information about a claim. This includes a duty to search for and to disclose documents that are or have been in your possession or control. Disclosure in this context means revealing the existence of a document and allowing your opponent to inspect it if you still possess it.
This obligation extends to:
- documents which you intend to rely on to prove your claim
- documents which adversely affect your case
- documents which adversely affect your opponent’s case and
- documents which support your opponent’s case
In other words, you are required to disclose any document that might be relevant to the claim; even if it is potentially harmful to your case.
You are required to carry out a reasonable search in order to identify the documents. If you encounter any problems in tracking down any potentially relevant documents please let us know. If it transpires that you have failed in your duty of disclosure this will not only affect your credibility as a witness but also lay you open to a court penalty for contempt of court.
It is vital that you tell us about and disclose to us any documents which may be relevant to your claim at an early stage if we are to be able to advise you properly.
We shall advise you if any documents are privileged from disclosure or are otherwise inappropriate for disclosure and we will prepare the formal list of documents for you.
It is likely that you will be required to give evidence about your case. Initially this will be in the form of a written statement. If the matter proceeds to a full trial you will be required to attend court to give evidence in person. We will need to obtain witness statements from all relevant witnesses to the facts upon which your case is based. Your witnesses may also be required to attend court to give evidence. We will interview your witnesses and draft the witness statements.
Your case may require the evidence of experts in a relevant fi eld. We will let you know if this is likely to be the case. The parties are usually required to attempt to agree a joint expert to give a single report on the issues.
You must co-operate with the reasonable requests, such as allowing access to your property, of any expert (even an expert instructed by your opponent) to assist in preparing their report. We will attempt to agree instructions for a joint expert or prepare instructions to your expert.
Preparation and listing for trial
If it is not possible to settle your claim without proceeding to a hearing then we will arrange for you to be represented at the hearing. We will discuss what to expect at the hearing in the run up to the hearing date.
You must let us know any dates upon which you are unable to attend a hearing, for example if you have a hospital appointment or are on holiday.
Steps following the hearing
Money received under a Judgment in your favour are paid to this fi rm. We will account to you for this money, subject to payment of our costs and expenses.
Your costs will be calculated in accordance with your agreement with us.
Recovery of costs
In the event of a successful outcome at court the trial judge may assess the amount of costs that the losing party must pay to the winning party and then direct that this should be paid by a specifi ed date (usually within 14-28 days). This is known as summary assessment of costs.
Where no summary assessment is made and if we cannot agree the level of costs with the opponent then we can apply to the court to decide the correct level of costs. This is known as detailed assessment of costs.
This procedure can take several months.
Even if costs are awarded in your favour, there is usually a shortfall between the amount of costs incurred on your behalf by us and the amount of costs actually recovered from your opponent. You will be obliged to meet this shortfall.
Enforcing a Judgment
If your opponent is ordered to pay money to you and does not pay, you will need to consider taking further action to recover the sums owed. We can assist you in deciding the best action to take. You should be aware that enforcing a Judgment will take further time and we will need your authority to incur additional costs should you instruct us to undertake this additional work. Much enforcement work can be undertaken on a fixed fee basis and we will provide you with details should the need arise.
We depend upon your full co-operation and complete instructions to progress your claim effectively. We will need to see any documents or records that may be relevant to your case at the earliest possible opportunity.