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Litigation Timetable - Part 1

24 May 2019

Steven Langton

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When you have a dispute, it is a natural response to want to have a quick solution.

Litigation is still the main method in the UK by which parties seek to resolve civil disputes: unfortunately, however, the result is not instant. 

Even starting the process takes time. This short paper will give you some idea of what is involved before taking an action to Court and how long that might take.

Civil litigation in the England and Wales is governed by the Civil Procedure Rules - the CPR. Parties to litigation must comply with these, which apply even before litigation begins. Pre-action protocols have been with us for some time: the first two, concerning personal injury and clinical negligence, came into force on the 26th April 1999. There are currently 15 pre-action protocols. Where one does not apply specifically to a case, the parties are expected to follow the Practice Direction on Pre-Action Conduct. This means parties are expected to act reasonably in exchanging information about the claim, defences and counter-claim, including relevant documents in support of their case. 

Pre-action protocols often set out time periods for compliance. These differ from protocol to protocol. Where there are none the court will expect that the other party will acknowledge the protocol letter within 14 days. After acknowledgment, the defending party will have time to formulate a proper response. How long that is depends upon the complexity of the matter. More complex matters might justify longer periods investigate and reply, particularly where insurers are involved. Where expert advice is required, longer periods may be appropriate.

The Court has power to deal with parties who do not comply. The court will exercise the powers under these provisions with the object of placing the innocent party in a no worse position than it would have been in if the protocol had been complied with.

If the Court feels that a party’s non-compliance with a pre-action protocol has led to proceedings being started which otherwise might not have been, or where additional costs have been incurred, a court can order payment of part or all of the costs of the proceedings by the defaulting party. Where the defaulting party is the claimant, the amount of interest awarded can be reduced or extinguished; where the defaulting party is the defendant, interest on damages may be payable at a rate not exceeding 10% above base rate.

Patience and good preparation are the key. Rush into litigation without either and the process is likely to be frustrating and expensive. 

At 3HR Corporate Solicitors, we can help you reach an informed commercial decision and can advise you about the most appropriate ways to pursue your claim. Speak to one of our team for details.

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Steven Langton

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