The procedure for new claims starts when the claimant (the individual who is initiating the claim against the defendant) fills out the County Court claim form (N1).
This form will ask for information on both the claimant and the defendant, such as full names and addresses, as well as a detailed breakdown of the particular circumstances of the new claim being made.
There are conceivably some situations where the particular details of the new claim may become apparent after the need to initiate the court proceedings, so it is acceptable County Court procedure to file the details later, although it must be done within 14 days of the N1 Form being submitted.
It may be a good idea to consult a solicitor or other legal professional before submitting the claims form, so that any potential ambiguities can be eliminated.
There may be a need to attach other documents to the new claim form, such as a copy of the contract that has been breached or the written agreement (perhaps to purchase a set amount of goods for a set price) that the dispute is based around.
The next part of County Court procedure is the submission of the new claim form to the individual County Court where the claimant desires to have the proceedings held. It is at this point that any court fees will become payable and any exemptions or remissions should be registered (form EX160).
After the County Court has officially rubber stamped the new claim form, it will be served to the defendant, and upon its receipt the first stage of County Court procedure is completed.
Because the form will generally be sent to the defendant by the court via first class post, it is assumed that they will have received the new claim by the second business day after posting it. This part of the County Court procedure can be altered by either issuing the new claim online or, if the claimant is that way inclined, the form can be personally presented t the defendant by the claimant after it has been stamped.
After the new claim is served
After the claim has been submitted and served to the defendant, they have the chance to bring the whole County Court procedure to an end.
Defendant pays up
To do this the defendant has to simply accept the claim made against them. If this happens then they will only have to make the payment directly to the claimant and get on with their life.
There is a County Court procedure to go through for the the defendant to admit that they are in the wrong. Firstly they must fill out a form requesting a ‘judgement on admission’ form the County Court in question. They will then need to tell the claimant how they plan to pay the money back, whether in instalments or all in one go.
Of course, however, the claimant may not accept the payment plan. They must present their reasons for this course of action to the County Court itself, which will then provide a judgement on whether the claimant is being reasonable.
Defendant does not pay
The defendant may admit the claim but be unable to pay the money that is subsequently owed. In this case the County Court procedure is to have the defendant fill out form N9A – Admission (specified amount). This form will ask for the defendant’s monthly income, their outgoings as well as the amount they can afford to pay in instalments.
The defendant may dispute the entire claim itself, and if this is so, the matter will be sent to the County Court. To do this they will have to respond to the claim form served to them within 14 days of receiving it.
After this defence has been received by the court a questionnaire will be posted to both parties, which will determine what ‘track’ the new claim is to be placed upon. The claimant will have to have paid their court fees by the time these questionnaires are completed, otherwise the claim will simply grind to a halt and fester slowly until the payments are made.
It is possible for the defendant to admit that they will need longer than 14 days to complete the County Court procedure of filing their defence. In this circumstance, the defendant must file an Acknowledgement of Service form with the court.
Court directions issued and hearing date set
Depending on what track the new claim has been allocated to, the defendant and the claimant will be informed in writing of the relevant County Court procedure and preparation that is required. The court may request that copies of all the documents being used be submitted before the hearing, and any special requests, such as playing audio or video recordings, must be presented to the court prior to the hearing.
The hearing date being set is the next step, although the court may decide a hearing is not needed or more than one hearing will most likely be required.
County Court case procedure
It is important that both the claimant and the defendant prepare for the County Court hearing properly. It may be worth the seeking the legal advice of a solicitor to help with this preparation process.
The main points are that as much as possible a chronological timeline of events should be established and that all relevant evidence should be used to reinforce this timeline. All documentation that could be seen as having meaning should be gone through (such as receipts, contracts, expenses, etc) and should be listed.
The County Court procedure for using witnesses, whether personal or expert, is that a request should be made to the court a good amount of time before the hearing begins.
Most hearings in the County Court do not require the presence of a jury, and can be requested to be held in private if both parties like that idea. Even though the hearing may be relatively informal, it is the judge who is completely in charge. They may limit each party’s speaking time and may ask whatever questions they wish.
If either the defendant or claimant wish an independent third party to speak on their behalf, they must still be present in the hearing itself. The same general Count Court procedure applies if either party requires a translator.
The judge will give their judgement and the reasons they have for making it at the end of the hearing, and any legal fees must be settled.
An appeal against the judgment produced by the County Court procedure must be lodged within 21 days of the hearing ending, and this will again cost the person a fee (unless they qualify for an exemption or a remission).
If the judgement is not kept to, the aggrieved party can take the matter back to court and apply for a legal order to enforce the judgment.
When the compensation has finally been paid, the dust has settled and the solicitors and legal professionals have had their fees paid, the County Court procedure will be finished and the new claim will have been completely dealt with.