Do you have a claim you want to pursue? Have you suffered loss through someone’s negligence or breach of contract? Are you owed a debt?
You may wish to issue court proceedings to resolve this issue. However, there are preliminary steps that you should address first. And the principle step is a letter of claim.
The Civil Procedure Rules and Pre Action Protocols
The court has a series of rules for civil claims know as the Civil Procedure Rules (CPR). These rules set out a number of steps, in guides known as Pre Action Protocols, that should be undertaken prior to issuing court proceedings. There are specific protocols for many areas including (but not limited to): Debt, Defamation, Personal Injury, Clinical Dispute, Professional Negligence, Housing.
Where there is no specific protocol there is general guidance in the Practice Direction on Pre Action Conduct. What is common amongst the protocols is that the court expects or requires parties to send a pre-action letter of claim before any proceedings are contemplated.
So what is a letter before action?
A letter of claim is not a formal court document. However, it is important. It is the start of any claim and is the document that sets the initial basis of what the dispute is about. It is your initial chance to put your allegations to the other party.
What should go in a letter before action?
The various protocols may have specific requirements. Read the protocols carefully. It is important to ensure that they are complied with.
However, as a general rule, a letter of claim should include details of the background and circumstances of the claim. It should include any allegations of breach of contract or negligence made. And it should include details of the remedy sought. If the remedy is money, don’t forget interest.
A time limit should be given for a response. Again, this may be set out in the various protocols, but failing that, a reasonable time frame is anticipated. What is reasonable, of course, can depend on the circumstances of the matter. The more complex, the longer a reasonable period of time to respond might be.
You should also give details of any documents that you have and intend to rely on as well as setting out whether you consider alternative dispute resolution to be appropriate.
What can you claim in a letter before action?
Letters of claim aren’t just about money. It might be that you are seeking to enforce a contractual right, seeking that someone stop making defamatory comments or seeking documents from another party.
A letter of claim is a tool to be used in enforcing a wide range of legal rights.
What not to do?
Remember that although you are not in court now, you could be. Anything you write in your letter of claim could, potentially, end up before a judge. Keep the letter professional and objective and avoid unnecessary threatening or critical language.
What to do next?
If you find you need to issue a letter of claim, the starting point would be to check the protocols. From there you can either draft your own Letter before Action or seek legal assistance. LawBite has a model form of letter of claim for breach of contract claims.
Alternatively, our dispute resolution lawyers would be happy to assist in helping you put together an appropriate letter for your claim and can provide you with an up-front fixed-price quotation or you could have a go yourself and we can check it over for you.
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