Small claims are simple disputes involving sums of less than £10,000, for example, consumer disputes, poor service, money that is owed, faulty products or tenant-landlord disputes.

These types of issues can cause real stress and frustration for people who are often unsure where to turn for help when they feel they are getting nowhere through negotiation with the other party.

You can use a solicitor for small claims and, in some cases, a solicitor’s letter or pre-action protocol can prove useful in resolving matters quickly, but many people choose to handle these types of matters themselves, especially as the cost of legal help is rarely recovered.

If you are handling a small claim yourself, you will need good evidence, such as letters, receipts, photos, estimates, invoices and witness statements. You will also have to pay a fee to make your claim, with the amount dependent on what you are claiming.

Once you have gathered your evidence, you will need to complete an online claim form and submit your fee. You can also download and print a claim form.

This form will be sent to the defendant who may choose:

  • not to defend the claim, in which case you won’t need to continue with the case through the court to trial, or
  • to agree with part of your claim and offer to pay some or all of the money that you asked for, or
  • to defend your claim, requiring them to send their defence to the court. In these circumstances, you will be asked to complete a directions questionnaire, which will be used to decide what evidence is to be used and when and where the hearing should be. It also invites the parties to agree to telephone mediation to try to settle the case without proceeding to a final hearing.

At the final hearing, the judge will already have looked at all of the evidence and might ask you to summarise your case or answer questions about specific elements of your claim before coming to a decision or judgment.

If you win, the defendant will usually be ordered to pay your court fee and any travel expenses or loss of earnings you may have, as well as the money or damages that you were claiming for. If you lose, you do not recover any monies and it is very unlikely that you would be asked to pay for any of the defendant’s legal costs.

If you decide to handle a small claim yourself, you can seek advice from the Citizens’ Advice Bureau. You may however have home or motor insurance that gives cover for legal expenses. It is unlikely that this would cover small claims matters but it is still worth checking.

If you decide to use a solicitor to help you with your claim, you will be charged legal fees. Our disputes team can be contacted on 01782 205000 or by emailing enquiry@beswicks.com. We also offer a one-hour fixed fee consultation for £150+vat.