Civil litigation


Civil law is distinct from criminal law in that it is concerned with individuals and companies where there is no possibility of prison as an outcome. Civil litigation is the name given to the legal process of enforcing these laws and the method of resolving such disputes through the use of the courts.

Why take civil action

Civil litigation is an umbrella term, and encapsulates all the different types of action under civil law, including actions in tort, contractual disputes, commercial disputes, and property disputes. Civil litigation is the process of recovering financial loss suffered, or outstanding debt owed to you.

There are a number of reasons why you may consider bringing a civil action, for example:

  • To seek compensation for a wrong
  • To get specific performance of a contract

Specific performance can be invoked where monetary damages would not be adequate compensation, in which case the court can require that the contract be performed. Whilst it is rare that the court will require specific performance it is likely to do so when the contract was for something unique or rare such as for a particular chattel or piece of land.

Small claims court

It is important to note that if your case is worth less than £5,000 then you must file your claim via the small claims court. Although you are allowed to represent yourself, expert legal advice is likely to make a big difference in relation to getting the desired outcome. For many people this is the most straightforward process to claim money back.

However, the small claims court process can be long and complicated for a non-professional, particularly if you are involved in a difficult case.

Stages of litigation

Civil litigation has a number of different stages:

  • Pre-action protocols
  • Statements of case
  • Allocation and directions
  • Exchange of witness statements
  • Expert reports (if needed)
  • Trial

There will be a certain amount of costs involved to progress your case through each stage, however for the initial stages these will normally be low.

Therefore if you are not sure on your case it is advised to speak to a solicitor as early as possible. They will be able to give you an idea about probability of success and what the likely costs of brining your case to trial will be.

Contacting a solicitor at the start of your case is also highly recommended because unlike in criminal matters to succeed in civil matters you must prove your case ‘on the balance of probabilities’. A solicitor will be able to advise you of whether you are likely to be able to meet this requirement or whether a different course of action such as mediation will offer you the best chance of success.

For more guidance, see our page on FAQ about civil litigation.

Do you have a civil litigation claim you want to bring against another party for financial loss or outstanding debt? Contact Law can put you in touch with a specialist civil litigation solicitor who can assess your case and recommend the best course of action to achieving a satisfactory result. Please call us on 0800 1777 162 or complete the web-form above.

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