It is important to remain as objective as you can be. We appreciate this can be difficult, particularly if you feel you have been wronged in some way.
It would therefore be useful to have a trusted friend or contact who you know will give you honest feedback to your case to help bring some objectivity to your case preparation and presentation.
We suggest that you go through the following questions both to assess the merits of your claim, but also build up your case:
1. What is your problem?
• Write down what is at the heard of the problem e.g. I am owed money or I have bought faulty goods or services;
• Consider whether Court is actually the most appropriate place to resolve this problem? Could there be a more cost effective way e.g. mediation or referring the matter to an appropriate ombudsman
• Are there other issues which cannot be dealt with by court e.g. the need for an apology
2. What are your rights?
• It is important to research your legal position particularly if there is no legal basis for resolving your problem;
• See our section on – ‘Where can I get advice and assistance on my legal rights’
3. What do you want?
• This is probably one of the most important questions in assessing and preparing your claim. It would be difficult to do either if you do not know what outcome you are looking to achieve
4. Having answered questions 1-3 have you already communicated this to the prospective Defendant?
• If you have not, you should do so. It could result in avoiding the need for court;
• Furthermore, the court will not look favourably on you if you have not only failed to set out your case before issuing court proceedings, but not attempted other methods to resolve the dispute (See our section on ‘ADR’)
5. Have you the correct identity for the prospective Defendant?
• It important you get the identity of who you are claiming against correct because:
- The wrong company or person is unlikely to engage with you or agree to a settlement;
- If you issue a claim against the wrong company or person, your claim will fail.
• Do you have up-to-date contact details?;
• If dealing with a company have you been dealing with the correct person e.g. someone with the authority to deal with your claim
6. Have you checked whether it is worth pursuing the Company or Person?
• This really ties in question 3 above.
• If you want to recover money then there is no point pursuing someone without any money or assets (known as ‘a man of straw’) or a company which is insolvent.
7. Consider your communications with the other party carefully
• Remember that anything you commit to writing could be seen by a judge. Would you be happy for them to read it? How do you think you would be perceived?
• Consider the following when communicating to the other party whether in writing or orally. Be:
- Clear – why are you communicating with them;
- Concise – try to get to the point. Your message will be more powerful if it is concise and not downed out with unnecessary information;
- Concrete – you need to give enough information so that the reader or listener can follow your message but do not go overboard – see concise above;
- Correct – it’s important to be accurate in what you say. To be otherwise could undermine your case and credibility;
- Complete – it’s important that the reader/listener has enough information in order for them to consider and take action on your message. However it’s this which can over result in people failing to be concise for fear of missing something.
- Courteous – whilst it may be tempting to be aggressive or even perceived as being forceful it is not necessary and remember the first tip above, a judge may end up reading your communication or be referred to your oral communication. It is possible to be polite but forceful.
• Consider what evidence you need or have to support your case?
• Organise what evidence you do have?
• Consider whether and where you can get any missing evidence?
• Keep correspondence and communications with the other side organised
• Keep and organise copies of court documents, receipts for payments and court orders
9. Know your limitations
• Do not be afraid to ask for help