Representing yourself in court – important information about the court process
You have the right to represent yourself in court without a solicitor or any other legal professional.
In the third of a series of articles Everyday Legal looks at the court process. If you’ve decided that you want to go to court and represent yourself you’ll need to be clear about the process you’ll need to follow.
In the previous article Representing yourself in court – what to do before you go to court we reviewed all the factors to take into account in coming to the decision to take court action and at the preparatory work you’ll need to do before you go to court. This article looks at the court processes you’ll encounter if you decide to represent yourself in court.
Before you go to court
In many types of court case it’s expected that you’ll have attempted to resolve the dispute before going to court. The courts have rules to encourage the use of alternative dispute resolution. You’d be expected to comply with these rules including:
- Providing information so that the other party (the defendant) is clear what the dispute is about and what you want and providing to the defendant any documents they ask for
- Acting within any time limitations or if there are none then within a reasonable time frame
- Considering using alternative dispute resolution
- Minimising any court costs and expenses
- Advising the defendant of your legal costs are to be paid by someone else
A protocol is an official procedure which covers how to deal with certain situations.
A Practice Direction gives the rules about how a court case must be prepared or presented.
Each protocol explains the process you’ll need to follow for your particular type of claim before the court proceedings begin. There are various pre-action protocols:
- Property Related eg: Construction and Engineering, Housing disrepair, Possession claims based on rent arrears, Possession claims based on mortgage arrears on residential property, Damages claims regarding the state of commercial property when a tenancy finishes
- Personal Injury / Medically Related eg: Personal Injury claims (including low value road traffic accident claims and employers’ liability and public liability claims), Clinical disputes, Disease and illness claims.
- Other including: Defamation, Professional negligence and a Judicial Review.
If the type of case you’re involved with isn’t one of these with a pre-action protocol then you follow the rules of Practice Direction – Pre-Action Conduct.
The full details of these protocols can be found at:www.justice.gov.uk
A court can suspend a case until these protocols are followed. It can also order one party to pay the other party’s costs.
Settling your Case out of Court
You can reach agreement about how to settle your case at any time. You may choose to do this because it’s cheaper and quicker to do that or because you can secure an outcome that would not be open to you through court action. There are different ways that you can settle your case out of court – these include a discussion either face to face or over the phone, emailing the other party or taking part in mediation. It’s advisable to document any settlement you reach.
When you’re trying to settle your dispute then putting ‘without prejudice’ at the start of any letter or email ensures the courts would not see it if your attempts to settle fail and you have to go to court after all.
If you lose your case you will almost always have to pay the other party’s legal costs in addition to your own. If you win the other side should pay what the court awards you as well as your legal costs. Sometimes you may have to enforce the court’s order to get the money you’ve been awarded and to pay the costs of enforcing that order.
Content correct at time of publication