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How are proceedings in court started?

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Time limits:

Once a claim has been filed at the court office with the fee paid (issued), the claim form is valid for 4 months (6 months if being served outside the jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales). This means that the claimant must dispatch the claim form if serving it within the jurisdiction before midnight on the calendar day 4 months after the date of issue otherwise it will lapse.

There are some situations where the validity of a claim form can be extended, but this involves an application to the court before the claim form expires. It is vital that the claim form is served on time especially if there are concerns about limitation periods. Proceedings are only properly established once they are dispatched. A claim form includes what is known as a statement of case or a particulars of claim.

Acknowledging service:

Once the particulars of claim are served on the defendant which may be simultaneously with the claim form or done separately, the defendant must file an acknowledgement of service form or a defence within 14 days. A different period may apply when the defendant is located outside the jurisdiction. If the defendant lodges an acknowledgement of service form, they then have a further 14 days to serve a defence. If the defendant fails to comply with these time limits, the claimant can apply for judgment in default without a hearing.

Defences:

When defending a claim brought against you it is vital that you serve a formal defence on time. If you fail to do this, the claimant may succeed in securing a judgment against you in your absence and may also begin the process of enforcing that judgment against you and your property.

Preparing a defence can involve enormous pressures and large amounts of time. The courts do not find it acceptable to serve a defence that consists wholly of bare denials and refusals to admit damaging allegations made in a claim. If the claimant has served a very full particulars of claim or you work for a large organisation based in one location and the matter relates to another division in another location, you may find it difficult to put together a full defence in the time frame stated in the Civil Procedure Rules (CPR). It is possible to agree an extension of time with the other party of up to 28 days. A further extension may be obtained by making an application to the court.

Amending statements of case:

At various stages it is possible to amend a statement of case. This can usually be done without a hearing for permission to amend as long as the other party consents. If the other party does not consent, then permission of the court is usually required. Generally, an amendment will be allowed at any point up to the trail and in very limiting situations during the trial, as long as it does not prejudice the other party, or the trial date. However, amendments usually come with the condition that the party seeking to amend pays all the costs which occur due to the amendment.

Attacking your opponent’s statement of case:

Occasionally a statement of case may be missing essential parts of a particular claim. Failure to provide those details can be fatal to a claim. To bring to light these details a party attacking a statement of case can ask for “further information” and if it is not supplied, apply to the court for an order to strike out that part of the claim. Further information can also be asked for to allow the party making the request to be clearer about the case.

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