How to take a claim in the civil court

How to take a claim in the civil court - at a glance

This table is part of a series of guides about sorting out a dispute in the civil court and is designed to be used alongside the other guides. It provides a quick and useful way of checking your understanding and what you need to do and what to expect for small claims, fast track claims, breach of contract, debt, loss or damage which is someone else’s fault (negligence) with no personal injury, and personal injury (including road traffic accidents).

Breach of contract, or

Debt

Loss or damage which is someone else’s fault (negligence) with no personal injury

Personal injury (including road traffic accidents)

Basic time limits

(for more information see Time limits for suing someone)

6 years

6 years

3 years

Is it a small claim?

Yes, if the value is under £10,000 and is not too complicated or of great public importance.

Yes, if value under £10,000 and is not too complicated or of great public importance.

Yes, if the total value is under £10,000, and value of personal injury element is under £1,000 (if the accident happened before May 31st 2021).

Yes, if the total value is under £10,000, and value of personal injury element is under £5,000 (if the accident happened on or after May 31st 2021).

Is it a fast track claim?

Yes, if the value is over £10,000 and under £25,000

Yes, if the value is over £10,000 and under £25,000

Yes, if the total value is under £25,000 and the value of the personal injury element is over £1,000 (may change in the future)

Is there a specific pre-action protocol?

Yes, for debt and building disputes.

Otherwise No. You need to follow the guidelines for pre-action conduct

Yes for professional negligence (doctors/lawyers/accountants/surveyors). Otherwise, no. You need to follow the guidelines for pre-action conduct

Yes. Unless it is a small claim, when you need to follow the guidelines for pre-action conduct

There are new rules for personal injury claims caused by road traffic accidents that occured on or after May 31st 2021 and if the total value is under £10,000, and value of personal injury element is under £5,000. These provide a new pre-action protocol.  

Can I use Money Claims Online (MCOL)? (for more information about the limitations that apply to this service see Claimants - how to start a civil claim)

Yes, for debt or a fixed amount of money

Only if you are claiming a fixed amount of money

No

Will I have to pay the other side’s legal costs if I lose my small claim?

No, except for court fees, witness expenses, and any expert’s report, unless you have behaved unreasonably

No, except for court fees, witness expenses, and any expert’s report, unless you have behaved unreasonably

No, unless you have behaved unreasonably

Will I have to pay the other side’s legal costs if I lose my fast track claim?

Yes

Yes

No, unless you have failed to beat a Part 36 offer, or your claim was fundamentally dishonest, or other wrongful conduct

What award can the court make if I win?

Debt:

●      Amount of debt

●      Interest

Breach of contract:

●      Usually, money to put you in the financial position you would have been if the contract had been carried out properly

●      Occasionally, ordering the other person to remedy the breach of contract

●      Interest

●      Compensation (damages) to put you in the position you would have been in if the person had carried out their duty

●      Interest

●      Compensation for the injury itself, that is for your pain, suffering and loss of amenity

●      Compensation for your losses and expenses

●      Interest

New rules for personal injury claims caused by road traffic accidents that occured on or after May 31st 2021 come into force from May 31st 2021. Please bear with us while we ensure this guide is correct for those cases. It is correct for all other types of case. 

Can you spare a few minutes?


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Disclaimer

The information in this guide applies to England and Wales only. The law may be different if you live in Scotland or Northern Ireland. The law is complicated. We have simplified things in this guide. Please don’t rely on this guide as a complete statement of the law. We recommend you read the other guides in this series and try to  get advice from the sources we have suggested.

The cases we refer to are not always real but show a typical situation. We have included them to help you think about how to deal with your own situation.

Acknowledgements

This guide was produced by Law for Life's Advicenow project. Thanks to all those who provided advice and feedback on this guide, particularly Judith Emmet, Clare Shirtcliff, and Ashley Fredericks from Nottingham Law School Legal Advice Centre. 

Thanks to the Litigant in Person Support Strategy for funding the creation of this guide.

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