Preparing for a Final Small Claims Hearing

Cases allocated to the small claims track

After a case has been allocated to the small claims track, the court will normally fix a date for the final hearing and give the parties standard directions (a list of things they need to do to prepare the case for the final hearing).

Typically the parties will be required to send copies of any documents and witness statements upon which they intend to rely on to the other party and the court by a certain date. This would include any expert’s report although you’ll need prior permission of the court to present one of these.

What documents should I send?

You should include any document which may is relevant to your case – whether this would help or hinder it. In the following types of case such documents will typically include:

Contract cases

  • a copy of the contract, if there was one;
  • any quotations, estimates, brochures or order forms;
  • any invoices and receipts;
  • any important correspondence between the parties;
  • relevant photographs (eg, if you contend that the accommodation provided by your tour operator was of a lesser standard than that shown in the brochure; or where a claim relates to the quality of building work carried out);
  • a list of any works complained about, a list of any outstanding works and estimates or receipts for remedial work if the claim relates to work carried out by a builder.

Property disputes

  • a copy of the title deeds relating to the property or properties in question;
  • a plan of the site (a rough sketch will normally suffice);
  • photographs;
  • surveyor’s report;
  • any important correspondence between the parties.

Personal injury claims

  • a medical report;
  • photographs;
  • a plan showing where the injury occurred;
  • any important correspondence between the parties.

Road accident cases

  • a copy of the police accident report if one was prepared. These have to be requested from the police and normally take a while to arrive so make any request as soon as possible;
  • invoices and estimates for repairs;
  • a plan showing where the accident occurred (a rough sketch will normally suffice);
  • photographs of the scene of the accident and of the damage sustained;
  • any agreements and invoices relating to additional expenses claimed (eg, car rental charges);
  • any important correspondence between the parties.

What about witness statements?

You should provide a witness statement for any person who is willing to give evidence in support of your case – including yourself.

The witness statement should set out in a chronological order the version of events of the witness. It should generally be limited to the facts of the case and not give opinions –particularly as to the other party in the case.

The witness statement should state the name and address of the witness and should be set out using numbered paragraphs. At the end of the witness statement the words ‘I believe that the facts stated in this witness statement are true’ should be added. The witness statement should be signed by the witness and dated.

Preparing a bundle of documents and witness statements

There is no requirement to prepare a formal bundle of documents and witness statements in the small claims court. However, a bundle will normally assist and impress the judge so it is worth doing.

A good bundle will generally have three sections which will include:

    1. copies of the claim form, particulars of claim, defence and any other important court documents;
    2. the witness statements;
    3. any other documents, arranged in date order starting with the earliest document. Each page of the bundle should be numbered in the bottom right hand corner and placed in a ring binder where possible.

Final preparation for the hearing

Will I be able to ask questions of the other party at the hearing?

In most cases you will be allowed to ask the other party questions. It is, therefore, worth writing a list of the questions you would like to ask in advance of the hearing.

What about my witnesses?

It is important to ensure your witnesses know the time and date of the hearing and where it is to take place.

What if I forgot to include an important document in my bundle or have obtained further documentation or an additional witness statement since I sent my bundle to the court and the other party?

Any additional documents and witness statements should be sent to the court and the other party as soon as possible. There is no guarantee that the judge will allow you to rely on any evidence served late. However, if the other party has had sufficient time to consider the additional evidence and you can provide a good explanation as to why it was served late the judge may allow the evidence.

What costs and expenses can I claim?

Costs are limited in the small claims court. The rule is that no costs will be ordered between the parties except:

  • the fixed costs relating to issuing the claim;
  • court fees;
  • witness expenses reasonably incurred for travel and subsistence;
  • loss of earnings or loss of leave;
  • expert’s fees;
  • in cases involving a claim for an injunction or specific performance, the cost of legal advice and assistance up to a certain limit.

Can I claim interest on any monies owed to me?

If the judgment is for less than £5,000 you can’t claim interest from the date the order is made to the date when you are paid by the other party. If you are claiming more than £5,000, can claim interest up to the date of the order and from the date the order is made to the date you receive your money.

What should I wear for the hearing?

Clothing should be smart and conservative.

How should I address the Judge?

Small claim cases are normally heard by District Judges and should, therefore, be addressed as sir or madam.

What if I am late for the hearing?

You should arrange to arrive at court in good time for the hearing. If a party arrives late for a hearing the hearing may proceed in that party’s absence. If you are going to be late, you should telephone the court and explain that you are going to be late, why you are going to be late and when you are likely to arrive at court. The court may be able to delay the hearing although there is no guarantee that they will.

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