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Litigation - New Limit For Small Claims In The County Court

Following an increase in the ceiling for claims to be dealt with in the small claims track many people are still under the impression that the limit for small claims is £5,000.  On 1 April 2013 the small claims track limit was increased from £5,000 to £10,000 (except in personal injury cases and housing cases, where the ceiling will remain at £1,000).

This means that many more debts will have to be pursued in the County Court via the small claims track.

The small claims track is designed for parties to a dispute to conduct litigation by themselves without the expense of employing lawyers.  Whether you are making a claim or you are the debtor, should you lose, generally you will not have to pay the other party’s legal costs assuming they use a lawyer. This avoids the situation where a defendant, for example, is effectively bullied into settling for fear of the other side’s costs, even though they have a good defence.

A winning party is able to recover limited costs which include:

Fixed costs of starting claim – (extremely low)
Court fees
Travel expenses
Loss of earnings whilst attending the hearing
Experts fees up to £750

The no-cost rule can also be disapplied should one party behave unreasonably.  We should stress that it is fairly rare for the court to grant such an order, however, it is common for solicitors involved in small claims track cases to threaten the opponent by suggestions that they have been unreasonable and will have to pay costs.  Often small claims are complex and time consuming so you many wish to employ a lawyer but you should consider doing this on a limited fixed fee basis.  Alternatively, you may wish to instruct a lawyer just to attend the hearing for a fixed fee.

It is possible in some limited circumstances that a claim below £10,000 would still be taken out of the small claims track if for example:

The claim is complex, such as a professional negligence claim;
The defendant puts in a counterclaim which is above the £10,000 limit.

For more information, please contact Rupert Croft at Maitland Walker.