In most cases, the small claims Court is available for lay people to resolve disputes with a monetary value of less than £5000 without the formality of a full-fledged trial. Typically, the claimant can file a simple form stating his or her claim with the County Court. The Court sends out details of the claim to the defendant who must respond within 14 or 28 days depending on whether the defendant chooses to file an Acknowledgment of Service form. After receipt of the defence, the Court sets a trial date and gives directions to trial. Generally, the parties appear before a Judge and make their arguments in an informal manner. The judge usually makes his or her decision immediately at the end of the trial.
Despite the informality of the procedure, Court standards still apply, and the parties must assert legally valid claims and defences for an effective result. Many small claims Court litigants consult a solicitor to define their arguments. The procedure can offer a quicker and cheaper alternative for relatively small cases, but winning claimants still face problems enforcing their judgements, for which they may seek the advice of a solicitor.
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