01. Starting Legal Proceedings
First things first, Think about the end result.
Not to start on a negative, but always think about the end result first. That is, do you see a realistic outcome of being paid from the defendant? If you believe the defendant has no money whatsoever, then its best not to waste your time or money. Although the defendant may end up with a CCJ against their credit file, that maybe the only result you get. If you know the defendant has enough money to pay you, and you believe you are in the right, then start legal action.
Starting legal action.
Firstly, when starting legal action, you will need to file (start) the claim with Money Claim Online. This is the cheapest, and fastest way of starting legal action. You will be asked to pay a court fee, and depending on how much you are claiming for, depends on the amount of the court fee. You should be able to recuperate your court fees from the defendant if your claim is successful.
Once you have paid your court fee, and submitted your claim, Money Claim Online will submit the claim documents to the defendant, making them aware legal action has started against them. The defendant is then given the chance to either settle the claim partially, in full or dispute the claim, and maybe enter a counterclaim against you. Make sure you start legal action against the right person, spell their name & address correctly, as this can affect your claim, and any recovery efforts. If you are taking a company to court, make sure you spell the company name exactly as it is spelt, including any title (such as LTD or PLC).
If the defendant settles the claim, then you must update this on Money Claim Online. If the defendant disputes the claim, you will then be sent a document from Money Claim Online to progress your claim to your nearest county court for a hearing.
Both parties may be requested, by the courts, to submit their evidence to each other, and the courts. You will then be given a court hearing date. This date will normally be within 2-6 months of when the claim is progressed to the courts. You will be asked before hand if there are any dates you cannot manage due to holidays etc.
When attending court, make sure you are smartly dressed, and be prepared to wait. Courts are very busy places, and a 5 minute hearing can sometimes take over an hour. So your case, which should have started at 12pm, may not start until 3pm. Upon attending court, you need to let the court usher know you have arrived, he will then ask you to sit in the waiting area. When waiting, you will see the defendant arrive, if you do not wish to speak to them, they will be seated in a separate area away from you. If you still wish to try and resolve the matter before entering court, you can ask to speak to the defendant (personally) but it is at their discretion on whether or not they want to speak with you.
When it's your turn for your hearing, the judge will ask the court usher to bring you into the court room. Claims courts are nothing like criminal courts. In a claims court, it's like being at a large dining table, with the judge being at the head of the table, and either party at either end, facing each other. The judge will then proceed to ask questions, drawing on the evidence provided, which will allow them to come to the conclusion, on the balance of probabilities, who is right. Remember, don't speak unless you're spoken to. Interrupting a judge never goes down well.
After hearing all the statements, speaking to any witnesses you bring and seeing all the evidence needed, a judge will then ask you both to wait outside while they come to their judgement. Once they are ready to give you their judgement, they will ask you both to step back inside, where you will have either won, or lost your case.
If you win, a judge will tell you how much of your claim you are entitled to, plus any court fees you are entitled to. The judge will also ask if you're going to accept a payment plan from the defendant, or if you want it in full. A judge will then set a date on which the debt need to be paid by. If the defendant doesn't pay, the next step is recovering the debt.
If you lose, you may be ordered to pay the other sides costs, and, or counterclaim.
A few useful tips..
Dress smartly - turning up in muddy trainers and jeans won't make a good impression.
Don't speak until you're spoken to - If you keep interrupting the judge or defendant/claimant, you run the risk of being thrown out of court.
Remain calm - the other side is bound to tell a few lies, do not rise to them, stay calm, and present the evidence that reinforces your claim.
Get there early - even if your case isn't until 4pm, get there at 2pm and prepare.
Try and speak to the defendant - trying to chat to them before the hearing will show intent of trying to resolve the matter before the hearing.
Bring the evidence - fail to prepare, prepare to fail. Bring all the evidence which proves you're right.
Remain professional - as much as you would like to say what you're really thinking, don't do anything that can besmirch the other sides character, before, during or after court.
If you're nervous, bring support - courts allow you to have someone next to you for emotional support.