Small Claims Get Bigger!
From 1st April 2013, the Small Claims Track increased from claims valued up to £5,000 to £10,000. Lower limits will apply to personal injury and housing disrepair claims. Although these claims will still be dealt with in the County Court, significantly different rules apply to claims once they are allocated to the Small Claims Track.
The most significant relates to costs and the general presumption which applies to most litigation, that the winner will be awarded their reasonable and proportional costs, does not apply to small claims actions unless one of the parties has acted unreasonably. Although there is no formal guidance as to unreasonable behaviour, it is generally thought that this would include making unnecessary applications to Court, failure to comply with pre-action protocols, refusing to negotiate or mediate, exaggerating the value of the claim or failing to attend Court. In addition, you would normally be entitled to recover some of the costs or expenses that you had incurred.
All litigation is time-consuming and can be an emotional drain, but before you start a claim which is likely to be allocated to the Small Claims Track, you should give serious consideration to not only the merits of your case and the ability of the proposed Defendant to settle any Judgment debt, but also the economics of running the case itself. At Machins Solicitors LLP, we offer a service where we guide people through the process and assist with some of the drafting, and would provide a predetermined set fee for the work required.
Fast Track cases are from £10,000 to £25,000. The process is not as informal as the Small Claims Track, but designed to be quicker than claims which exceed £25,000, which would go to Multi-Track. There are set fixed costs at various sections, and the trial should only last for one day, and the use of expert evidence would be limited.
Before issuing any claim the appropriate pre-action protocol should be followed.
Also the Rules relating to Without Prejudice Save as to Costs offers made under Part 36 of the Civil Procedure Rules changed. If a Claimant does better than the settlement offer made under these Rules, the Court could award them 10% extra on their damages limited to £75,000. This is in addition to the existing costs benefits that can be awarded.
The scheme where all County Court money claims are issued out of the Bulk Centre under the name of Northampton County Court continues.