Threat of a legal claim

You may be served with Court papers, either by the Court service or by an opponent. Alternatively, you may have received a letter containing the threat of a legal claim. If this happens, what should you do?

Prior to Court proceedings being commenced against you, there should have been some correspondence between yourself and party bringing the claim.

What is a Letter before Claim?

Often you should have received a letter before claim which should set out the issues and what the claimant requests as a resolution to the dispute. The claimant should set out in the letter the reasons for bringing the potential claim, and also what evidence they have to support their claim.

You should consider the contents of this letter carefully. The letter should give you a certain amount of time to respond and will state what action will be taken if your response is not received within that time. It is important that you respond to the letter within the given time frame providing your response. It is often advisable to take advice at this stage to ensure that you understand your legal position and set out your response clearly.

The letter may also suggest a form of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) and you should consider whether this is an appropriate method of resolving the dispute at this point in time.

You will need to consider your response and how you wish to resolve this matter. For example, you may wish to negotiate with opponent.

It is advisable to discuss with your solicitor at this point how you wish to proceed with this matter. You will need to consider the cost implications if proceedings are issued, and consider whether it is appropriate to make a Part 36 Offer of settlement or to enter into some form of ADR.

What is a Part 36 offer?

A Part 36 Offer is an offer made to the other side in an attempt to settle the matter without it going to trial. A Part 36 Offer is made “without prejudice” and therefore its existence cannot be used in Court in evidence. Part 36 refers to the Civil Procedure Rules that apply to proceedings in England & Wales. There are particular requirements in making a valid Part 36 offer and potential advantages in doing so. These matters require specialist advice.

What do I need to do if I receive court papers?

If you receive a Claim Form you must ensure that you comply with the time scales set out in it. You will normally be given 14 days to file an Acknowledgement of Service indicating whether or not you intend to defend the claim, and a further 14 days then to file your Defence.

If you fail to do either of these then the claimant may request default judgment is made against you. Where the amount is for a specified amount the Court may enter final judgment against you. Where the amount is for an unspecified amount the Court will enter interim judgment and set a date for a disposal hearing. If judgment in default is entered against you, and you still wish to defend the claim an application to set judgment aside must be made promptly.

If you have received a letter before claim, or the service of Court proceedings, we recommend that you contact us for further advice.