Going to court

Shutterstock 143480209Courts deal with all types of disputes and generally will make decisions only according to the domestic law. Although you can choose the judge when looking to resolve a dispute through arbitration, you cannot choose a judge for a court hearing. All decisions of courts are legally binding, unless you successfully appeal the judgment after the court makes its decision.

Disputes between private individuals and/or organisations are heard in the civil courts. If you are the one bringing a dispute or claim against someone else to court, you are the claimant. If someone else brings a claim against you, you are the defendant. The type of disputes dealt with by civil courts might be non-repayment of a debt, personal injury, breach of a contract concerning goods or property, housing disputes or bankruptcy and insolvency disputes. 

You can make a civil claim by applying to the local county court. If the value of the claim is less than £5,000, it will be heard in a small claims hearing. But if the value of the claim is over £5,000, it will be heard in a trial at your local county court.  

Not all civil disputes are heard in the county courts. Particularly important and complex cases are dealt with in the High Court. Whether the case proceeds to the High Court depends upon the sum claimed under these more involved cases. In the majority of disputes, only if a claim is being brought for a specified sum of £25,000 or more will the High Court hear the case. If the claim concerns a personal injury dispute then it will only proceed to the High Court if the claim is for the amount of £50,000 or more.

After you have formally notified the court of your claim against the defendant they have 14 days to decide what to do next. The defendant can do nothing or they can make an arrangement with you to settle the dispute out of court. Or they can reply to court by challenging your claim, this is also known as "making a defence".

If the defendant does nothing then you can ask the court to order the defendant to pay the amount you are looking to claim. If the defendant challenges the case and cannot reach a settlement with you, then the case will be decided in court at a hearing. This hearing is likely to be heard by only one judge.

Most court hearings are open to general public, so anybody can visit and observe the hearing of your case.

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