A civil claim involves formal legal action in a court against a person or organisation.
You can make a claim after you’ve tried other ways to sort out a dispute but haven’t been successful.
Once a claim is filed in court, the person who made the claim is known as the plaintiff. The person who the claim is against is called the defendant. They are both called the parties. The case is often called a proceeding.
Even after a civil claim has been filed in court, many civil claims are resolved before they get to a hearing in a court room because the parties reach an agreement between themselves. A judge often helps parties come to an agreement at a settlement conference.
If a case goes to court, the plaintiff must prove their case to the ‘balance of probabilities’ to be successful. This means they must prove to the judge that their version of events is most likely to be true.
You can get a lawyer to represent you in court. If you can’t afford a lawyer you may be able to get legal aid. You can also choose to represent yourself.
Most cases start when a statement of claim is filed. Once the court has processed the statement of claim you have to serve it on the defendant, who has a set amount of time (usually 25 working days) to defend the claim. If they defend it, by filing a statement of defence, the court will arrange a first case management conference, where the judge will talk to both sides and decide what will happen next.
If the defendant doesn’t defend the proceeding, the case can go through the judgment by default process and the case ends.
This is just a summary. If you want more detail, you can:
You will need to prepare for court. This includes things like:
You might find it helpful to know what to expect at court. For example, the judge, court staff, lawyers, parties and witnesses will be in the court room, and journalists and the public can be there too, except for judicial settlement conferences and judicial directions conferences.
Find out detailed information about what to expect in the court room:
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