We often write about how to start different types of claims. But how about if you receive a letter before action, or are served with court papers? It can feel very stressful and sometimes overwhelming. In our experience, it is important to act quickly and to be organised. So, what should you do if someone sues you?
1. Instruct solicitors early
If you receive court papers, there is nothing to stop you acting for yourself. However, it is worth noting that the civil procedure process is a minefield of complex rules, procedures and strict time limits. Therefore, we always advise people to instruct solicitors early in the process.
As dispute resolution solicitors, we are experts in dealing with most types of claims. If you instruct a solicitor when you receive an initial letter threatening court action (often referred to as a letter before action), we may be able to prevent the potential claim going any further. We can review the potential claim against you and advise and assist you to potentially rebut the claim entirely or settle it early without incurring the costs of legal proceedings.
The second-best time to instruct solicitors is as soon as you receive the court papers. As dispute resolution experts, we will consider whether there have been any technical errors by the other party, and the next appropriate steps (and the time limits for these). We will advise you on the merits of the case against you and whether the claim is likely to succeed or not. From here, we can work out a strategy to get the best possible result for you.
Despite paying legal fees, instructing a solicitor early if someone sues you can be great value for money. For example, we recently had a Client who had been representing themselves. They had been writing to the opposition’s solicitors for many years. This drove up the opponent’s legal fees, whilst our client took on all of the responsibility of defending the potential claim without legal advice. The client then instructed us. Upon reviewing their file, we found that, had our client obtained legal advice sooner, there had been opportunities for them to dismiss the case early on.
Solicitors can only advise you based on the information you provide. Therefore, it is imperative we obtain all documentation relating to the claim from the start. Tucked away in those piles of papers can often be your ‘golden ticket’. These documents may include pieces of correspondence, emails and screenshots. Or it could be previous Court orders and related documents.
These snippets of information help us understand the essence and chronology of your claim. It assists our understanding of the parties involved and allows us to provide a fuller, more robust response.
3. DO NOT do nothing…
If someone sues you, whether you decide to instruct solicitors or not, it is important that you do take some action. Failing to respond to a claim or other court papers can leave you open to a judgment or order against you, including the other side’s costs. You may also find yourself with no option to defend the claim at a later date.
If you receive a letter from someone who is considering bringing a claim against you (or indeed, from their solicitors), our dispute resolution team can assist. Call us on 0800 988 7756 for a free initial discussion and costs estimate.