Effectively preparing for a small claims hearing

In recent years there has been an increasing trend of companies issuing court proceedings themselves in relation to unpaid invoices debts.  This can be a relatively straightforward process with the advent of Money Claim Online.  In many cases, taking such a step can act as an effective catalyst for debtors knowing a company is serious about pursuing an unpaid debt and settling matters without further resistance.

However, if the debtor continues to refuse payment or disputes the claim, things can quickly turn complicated.  It is at this stage that companies need to be alert to the correct procedural steps to take in order to obtain a judgment before inordinate amounts of management time are consumed in court proceedings.

There are specific timelines set out under the court rules for a debtor to respond to a claim.  If these are missed by the debtor then you must act swiftly in obtaining a default judgment.  Alternatively, if the debtor does file a defence to the claim there are various procedural steps that are available to bring the matter to a swift conclusion e.g. obtaining summary judgment or applications to strikeout.  Being aware of these steps and taking them at the right time can be the difference between recovering your unpaid debt or having to wait several months for your case to be heard at a contested hearing.

If the debtor does have a genuine dispute and files a defence on that basis, then a methodical approach must be adhered to in preparing for the hearing.  This includes correctly following the court rules in relation to disclosure and witness statement preparation.  A valid claim can be won and lost on the strength of witness evidence and it is, therefore, important to be aware of the pitfalls to avoid and how best to prepare such evidence.

Of equal importance to effectively preparing witness evidence is the observation of the court deadlines.  A failure to diarise key court dates can lead to a valid claim being struck out with limited prospects of pursuing the claim any further. The effective preparation is often the key to success and should not be underestimated regardless of the value of the claim.