If you are thinking about out how to start a small claim, you need to grasp the basics early on to avoid mistakes.

Small claims, typically those for disputes up to £10,000 in England and Wales, may initially seem daunting. Armed with the right knowledge, you can navigate this process effectively and without the need to involve a lawyer.

In this post we give an overview of the steps involved in how to start a small claim.

Step 1: Attempt to Resolve the Dispute Informally

The process to resolve a dispute, should begin before any legal proceedings are started at court.

Initially, try to resolve the issue informally. Engage in a discussion with the party you have a disagreement with, outline the problem, and seek a resolution without involving the courts if possible.

Step 2: Draft a ‘Letter Of Claim’

If the dispute remains unresolved, the next stage of how to start a small claim involves writing a ‘Letter Of Claim’.

This letter should detail the claim, explaining the issue, what you expect from the other party, and why you believe they owe it to you. Courts expect this step to have been taken before commencing a claim and there are specific rules that set out what the letter should include.

Technically, a court could put a claim on hold if a party starting a claim hasn’t sent a letter of claim.

We have downloadable letters of claim in our store here.

Step 3: Begin Your Claim At Court

If the dispute still remains unresolved, you have now reached the stage of officially starting your  claim at court.

In England and Wales, this can be done online using the Government’s Money Claim Online (MCOL) service here or its online portal here. For more information on the mechanics of starting a claim and drafting the claim form, be sure to download out Ultimate Guide.

You can also instead start a claim by preparing a physical claim form and posting it to the County Court Money Claims Centre (CCMCC). Please note though, that there are proposals to change the CCMCC very soon and replace it with an alternative bulk centre.

Step 4: Await the Other Party’s Response

Once your claim has been issued, the other party will receive a copy and have 14 days from deemed service to respond. This can be extended to 28 days if they file an ‘acknowledgement of service’.

If the other party disputes the claim it must file and serve its defence with reasons as to why. The matter will then proceed as a defended claim, potentially all the way to trial.

If there is no response or an admission is made, you can apply to court to enter judgment.

Step 5: Consider Mediation

Claims allocated to the small claims track are usually offered the option of using the small claims mediation service.

Mediation offers a means of resolving disputes outside of court, providing a quicker, less stressful, and potentially better alternative to taking the matter all the way to trial.

Learn More On How To Start A Small Claim

Understanding how to start a small claim can seem intimidating, but with the right guidance and preparation, it is a manageable process.

There is no necessity to involve a lawyer in a small claim and the courts expect the parties to deal with a small claim, without any lawyers.

For further guidance, visit out store here for our comprehensive guide and precedent documents, specifically designed to assist you throughout the small claims court process.