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Civil Litigation Claim Tracks

When you apply to the court to make a civil litigation claim, once a defence is received from the other side, your case will be allocated to a particular track - small claims track, fast track or multi-track. The track will depend on the amount in dispute and the complexity of your case. The more complex your case, the more points of contact there will be with the court. Most claims are heard in County courts unless they are over £100,000 in value or have complex points of law, when they may be heard in the High court.

All defended cases are allocated to one of three tracks:

  • Small Claims Track: Most claims under £10,000, excluding personal injury and housing disrepair.
  • Fast Track: Between £10,000 to £25,000
  • Multi Track: Claims for over £25,000, or for lesser money sums where the case involves complex points of law and/or evidence.

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How Does The Court Deal With Civil Litigation Claims?

Small Claims Track

Small Claims up to £10,000 (excluding personal injury and housing disrepair ) are generally heard by a District Judge, in open court. The small claims track is designed to discourage the use of a solicitor, as the winner is generally not able to claim their legal costs from the losing party beyond a minimal sum. The judge will order dates by which evidence has to be disclosed and at the final hearing will normally look at the documents filed by each side but may not hear evidence of witnesses. Judges will generally use an interventionist approach to resolve issues, persuade the parties to mediate or reach a final finding.

Fast Track Claims

Fast track claims are normally those between £10,000 to £25,000 and which are not ‘complex’. The court will give directions for the management of the case at a case management conference (“CMC”) and set a timetable for the steps to be taken between giving the directions and the trial date. The timeframe for this should not generally exceed 30 weeks from the CMC. The idea of the Fast Track process is to simplify the case for the court. The Court frequently limits expert evidence to one expert witness and, if the parties cannot agree on an expert, the court has the power to appoint one. The expert's evidence will be given in writing. There are fixed costs for the advocate at the trial and the costs of whole process normally ‘follows the event’, i.e. costs are generally awarded to whoever ‘wins’. However, costs are awarded at the discretion of the judge and if you have not attempted to settle your case or tried mediation before going to court, costs may not be awarded. To see the whole process please see our Civil Court proceedings flowchart.

Multi Track Claims

There is no standard procedure in the Multi Track as it is meant to be very flexible. The judge has discretion to use a number of case management approaches, including case management conferences and pre-trial reviews. The Court is required to actively manage the case progression once it is in the Court system and that active management includes the parties costs budgets and the Court can apply a ‘cap’ to a party’s budget. They actively manage the process by use of directions, which are specific steps a party has to comply with by specific dates. The Court will want to identify the issues as early as possible and may deal with specific issues prior to the final hearing to reduce the issues to be argued at the final hearing. The number of expert witnesses is strictly controlled by the court and its permission is required to use an expert to give evidence. All time limits are strictly enforced and it can dismiss a claim or a defence, if directions are not complied with. The Court can order a fixed date for a final hearing or order a trial window (a specified period – normally 3 weeks - in which the final hearing will later be listed). The Court has a great deal of flexibility in the Multi Track and the date of a specific direction may be changed by agreement between the parties or the Court but, once a trial date is fixed, the Court is very unlikely to agree to an adjournment without a compelling reason.

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