[Note: I’m not a qualified legal professional, these are the observations of a layman and should not be considered legal advice]
One of the reasons there has been a break in posts in my blog is that I’ve recently been involved in a court case which I’ve spent a fair amount of time preparing for. I’m not going to go into the specific details, but I was the claimant, a judge has recently ruled in my favour, and the defendant has been astoundingly naive in their belief of the law, which made me wonder how many other people need to take court cases more seriously and could benefit from the following tips;
1) Research court procedure. Many court processes have deadlines and if you fail to meet these deadlines you may be seen as having a contemptuous attitude toward the court which may result in your case or defence being thrown out. If you are late filing papers all your other preparations can be rendered worthless and so is absolutely the most important thing to remember.
2) Research your position. Be willing to accept you may be in the wrong and even if you are right look at what you will realistically want to walk away with. Bringing even the smallest of claims to a hearing in the UK can cost several hundred pounds, so it’s really not worth going to court over 50 quid if you think you have a 50/50 chance of winning.
3) Be prepared to discuss a settlement. Don’t refuse to talk, don’t say “I’ll only negotiate by ‘phone”, and don’t say “I’ll see you at the hearing!!!” several months before the hearing takes place. Doing this can weaken your case because the court may say you’ve not acted in a reasonable manner. If you have reached the lowest figure at which you wish to settle say something like “If you are not willing to accept my offer I see we have little more to discuss”, this leaves the door open to the other side in case they decide that settling is better than taking it to court.
4) Be aware of what roles people can take in the hearing. In UK courts only qualified legal people can represent you, but you can take in a non-qualified person to offer you advice (known as a “McKenzie friend”). You can not say a non-qualified person is there to speak on your behalf..
5) There is the law, and there is what you think is right, and they may be different. Going to a hearing to say “It’s not fair”, or “I think thats extremely harsh to someone in my situation” isn’t going to win you the case. Your arguments need to be based in fact, needs to address the case, and needs to be supported by documentation. I’m sure that everyone has laws that they don’t agree with, but unfortunately that doesn’t make them any less enforceable, and if you are a defendant you may find that after the hearing the court fees have been added into the award you’ll end up paying more than if you’d just offered to pay the original claim.
I hope these are useful to people, but please please please, if you are in any doubt about a court action, discuss it with a qualified legal professional. Do not go off the advice of a mate down the pub based on something he may had heard or read somewhere.