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Civil Disputes - Defending a Claim

If someone makes a claim against you, you must respond to it. It will not go away – do not ignore it. If you do nothing, a judgment may be entered against you and may affect your ability to obtain credit.

If the Claim Form includes “Particulars of Claim” you must reply within 14 days of receiving the papers. The Court will send you a “Response Pack” with the Claim Form. This contains information about how to complete and return the form.

The Response Pack contains several reply options depending on whether you admit the claim, admit the claim but cannot pay it, deny the claim or deny part of the claim. You should complete the form carefully to ensure that the Court understands exactly what your reply to the claim is meant to be.

If you need more time to consider the claim – because for example you want to take legal advice – you should complete the Acknowledgement of Service form and return it to the Court. This extends your time for filing a Defence to the claim to 28 days.

If you wish to allege that the Claimant owes you money you should say so in the form that you send back to the Court. If the amount that you are claiming exceeds the amount being claimed against you you will have to pay a Court fee. Click here for details.

The most important thing to remember is that you must reply one way or the other. If you do not do so you may find the County Court Bailiff on your doorstep. The Bailiff can remove items belonging to you to satisfy a judgement obtained against you.

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Defending a Claim FAQs

Settling a Claim

Many cases are settled without a Court hearing. This avoids unnecessary costs. It is always better to try and reach an agreement with someone who owes you money or to whom you owe money rather than have a decision imposed on you by the Court.

If you can settle the case between you – and the majority of cases do settle in this way – you can both write in to the Court setting out what has been agreed as to amount and time for payment. There is a fee payable of £100.00. The Court will usually approve that arrangement and issue an Order in the agreed terms so that if they are not complied with they can be enforced by the Court.

Most Courts now require you to try and settle cases without a Court hearing using mediation. This involves a “round table” meeting where both parties are encouraged and assisted to reach their own settlement agreement by a Court appointed Mediator. Check with your local County Court to see whether this alternative is available to you.

Losing a Claim

If you take someone to Court and are unsuccessful in obtaining the money claimed you will have to pay their legal costs (if the claim exceeds £10,000 or £1,000 for personal injury cases).

If the claim is less than £10,000 (or £1,000 for personal injury cases) you will not have to pay any legal costs but will have to pay their lost earnings and travel expenses in attending Court.

If you lose a claim that you have defended, a judgement will be entered against you for the amount claimed together with legal costs (if the claim is over £10,000 or £1,000 for personal injury).

If you cannot pay the judgement or costs you should take advice from FJG or your local Citizens’ Advice Bureau.

If you have been ordered to pay the judgement as a lump sum you may be able to arrange to pay it by instalments.

If you have been ordered to pay the judgement by instalments that you cannot afford you may be able to pay by smaller instalments.

In either case you can apply to the Court on Form N245 to review the terms of payment.

You must act promptly.

If you have no hope of paying the judgement you may have to consider making yourself Bankrupt or subject to an Administration Order (available where your debts do not exceed £5,000).

Either of these steps has serious consequences for your ability to obtain credit. You should always take legal advice before making such an application. Click here to contact us for further details.

If an application has already been made to enforce the judgement you will have to apply to the Court to suspend or vary any order that has been made. See enforcing a claim.

Setting aside a judgement

If a judgement has been obtained against you without your knowledge you can apply to the Court to have it set aside.

You should contact the Court as soon as you learn of the judgement and obtain an “application form” (Form N244) on which you must set out the reasons for wanting to set aside the judgement You will need to support this with a “statement of truth” and pay a fee of £255.00.

If enforcement proceedings have been issued against you you will also need to apply for a “stay” or “suspension” of those proceedings until the Court can deal with your application to set aside the judgement at a hearing.

If you did not receive any of the Court papers – because the papers have not been property served e.g. you have moved address – you are entitled to have the judgement set aside as of right.

If there is some other reason why you want the judgement set aside the Judge will consider your request at a hearing and may or may not agree to the judgement being set aside. Before doing so a Judge will want to be satisfied that you have an arguable defence to the claim.

If the Judge sets aside the judgement you will be required to send to the Court a written Defence setting out the reasons why you do not accept the judgement that has been made against you. The Judge may also impose other conditions such as the payment of a sum of money into Court – in return for allowing you to set aside the judgement.

Appeals

If you are dissatisfied with a judgement you can appeal against it. You should:-

  1. Act quickly – there are limited time periods within which you must appeal
  2. Think carefully about the extra costs that may be incurred if your appeal is unsuccessful
  3. Take legal advice as to whether you have proper grounds for an appeal
  4. Check whether you need permission to appeal
  5. Contact the Court in which the judgement was made against you for leaflet EX340 which sets out the steps that you need to take

Appeals which have no real prospect of success simply prolong the agony and increase costs. Be sure to take legal advice before committing yourself and your opponent to an Appeal.

Satisfying a judgement

If a judgement is obtained against you should:-

  • Pay it promptly failing which it will become a registered judgement
  • Obtain a receipt for all payments made
  • If you are unable to pay the judgement as ordered apply to the other party or in default to the Court for time to pay. Even if your opponent is unreasonable the Court will usually listen to a realistic proposal for payment
  • Not ignore it – it will not go away!
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