Before you start proceedings: 10 things to think about

 

People involved in disputes - whether accidents and injuries, family-related issues, employment issues or financial disputes - often rush to and immediately decide to try to sue the other side. Here are some things to think about before commencing legal proceedings.

1. Do you have a good case? This may seem obvious, but you need to have a genuine legal claim or a "cause of action" in order to gain the court's support. For example, the mere fact that you might have fallen and injured yourself in a shop does not mean you will necessarily be successful if you decide to pursue a personal injury claim. The elements of such a claim will need to be proven, including that the shop owner was at fault in failing to ensure your safety.

2. Have you made your position clear with regards to the dispute? This step also seems obvious, but is often overlooked by people. If the other side know they are at fault and you have clearly presented your case, most individuals or businesses will do what they can to resolve the matter there and then, rather than be taken through the court process (which is time consuming and expensive).

3. Have you tried to settle the dispute by making a compromise? Sometimes you need to take a realistic look at the other side's point of view. They may have a good argument, or even a potential claim against you. If so, you may need to adjust your own position accordingly. If a specific sum is at issue, you could think about reducing the amount you are asking for. From a practical perspective, you might actually receive more this way than you would by going through the court process as you will have to factor in your solicitor's fees as well as other legal costs.

4. Will the other side be able to compensate you if you win? Take a long hard look at the financial condition of the party you are thinking about suing. You need to be reasonably certain that they will be able to 'pay up' if you are successful in obtaining a judgment against them.

5. Do you have the money to pay a solicitor to handle the lawsuit? Litigation is expensive, and recovering your full legal costs from the other side is not always possible. You should ask your solicitor for an estimate of legal costs for the whole action and work out if the dispute is worth the cost. It may be cheaper to negotiate and settle the claim.

6. Do you have the time and resources to devote to litigation? Litigation can take a lot of time and energy, and can be emotionally draining. Because of this you may find that you have less time and energy to devote to your work, business, family, and social life as the case goes on.

7. What is the limitation period for your claim? All causes of action are subject to time limits after which you are no longer allowed to start a claim. You therefore need to check with your solicitor to make sure what that time limit is in your case to make sure you are still entitled to take action.

8. Where will you be able to sue? If you are considering suing someone who is based in a different country, you will need to check with your solicitor whether UK courts have the necessary "jurisdiction" over that person or organisation. You might have to sue the defendant in his or her location, which will probably be a lot more expensive and inconvenient for you.

9. Is your claim small enough to bring under the "small claims" track? The Small Claims track applies only to claims of up to £5,000.

10. If you bring your claim under the small claims track, will you represent yourself? If your case is of the appropriate value for the small claims track, you will usually be representing yourself. You will save on legal fees by doing so. However, you may wish to seek some legal advice to help you to prepare your case.

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