What does it mean?
When someone is suing you it is known as a civil action or civil litigation. This is the process of bringing a claim or action against another person or organisation.
The person or organisation bringing the action is known as the Plaintiff. If the action is brought against you, you are the Defendant.
I have received a Civil Bill. What is this?
A Civil Bill is the first step in County Court proceedings. It means that the proceedings have now started. As the Defendant, there will be a date by which you have to respond to the proceedings. This is 21 days from the date you received the Civil Bill. You should contact us as soon as you receive the Civil Bill so that we can discuss the matter with you and advise you how to proceed. If you do not respond to the Plaintiff or their legal representative either directly or via ourselves within the timescales, the Plaintiff can make an application to the court for a default decree which will result in a County Court Judgment (CCJ) being made against you. It is important that you do not ignore these court documents.
I have received a Writ of Summons. What is this?
A Writ of Summons is the first step in High Court proceedings. It means that the proceedings have now started. As the Defendant you have 14 days in which to respond, failing which the Plaintiff can apply to the court to have a default Judgment made against you. If you received a Writ of Summons we would recommend that you contact us immediately for further advice. It is important that you do not ignore these court documents.
Will I be entitled to Legal Aid?
You may be entitled to Legal Aid if you are in receipt of Job Seekers Allowance or Income Support or otherwise come within the financial limits applicable. If you think you may be entitled to Legal Aid, you will need to provide us with documentation confirming your and/or your spouse/partner benefits details and we will assist you to complete the relevant application forms. There is usually a significant time delay between applying for and the granting of Legal Aid. The grant of Legal Aid is not backdated and therefore costs incurred before you are in receipt of a full Legal Aid Certificate will not be covered and will remain your responsibility.
Are there any other ways I can get my fees covered?
Yes, there are various methods of funding legal advice and you may find that your fees are covered by an existing household or car insurance policy. Insurers place certain criteria on funding legal actions so if you think you have a legal expenses policy, then you should make enquiries as soon as possible. If you are a member of a Trade Union, then you should also make enquiries with them as they may also fund litigation.
What happens if I lose the case?
The person who loses is usually ordered to pay the legal costs of the successful opponent together with their own legal costs. However, even the person who wins still has to pay his own solicitor. There may be occasions when the winning party is unable to claim costs from the losing party, for example, when the losing party are funded by Legal Aid.
Am I allowed to go to court without a solicitor?
Yes, there is no obligation for you to instruct a solicitor. You will be referred to in the course of the proceedings as a ‘personal litigant’. Often complex issues can arise in litigation cases, so we would recommend that you consult us for advice. If you still wish to represent yourself, particularly in the High Court, you should read their publication entitled, ‘A guide to proceedings in the High Court for people without a legal representative’. This can be found on their website, www.courtsni.gov.uk
My Business is owed money – what can I do?
If you have tried to engage with the person who owes you money and they have not responded to you, then we can look at issuing legal proceedings on your behalf. If a client or customer owes you money, please contact us and we can advise you as to your options.
What is the likely cost?
The County Court operates a Statutory Scale Fee structure and fees will be based on the value of the case.
In High Court matters, we charge an hourly rate which will differ depending on the status and experience of the person dealing with your case. We will provide you with an estimate of the costs at the outset and provide regular updates in terms of costs throughout the case.
The debtor admits that the money is owing – do I still have to go to court?
No. If the debtor does not dispute the debt, then insolvency proceedings can be issued by way of a Statutory Demand. Please see our insolvency section for more information.
Does a contract have to be in writing?
No. A contract may be formed in a number of ways including writing, words, conduct or a combination of these.
Is there a time limit for suing for breach of contract?
The limit is usually 6 years, but in certain cases it can be 12 years.
What is mediation?
Mediation is a non-binding procedure by which an independent mediator will seek to bring the parties together with a view to resolving problems without the need to incur the expense of going to court. Some branches of the High Court may insist that parties engage in mediation in the hope that it will cut down on the amount of cases that go through the courts. A party who does not co-operate in a mediation procedure can be penalised at a later stage by way of a costs order if they proceed with litigation. Not all cases will be suitable for mediation.