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Step 3: send the claim form to the court

This advice applies to England

Check all the facts in the claim form are correct before you send it. You should also write a covering letter to go with it. The letter should include details of how you’re paying the fee or if you don’t have to because you’re on a low income.  

Make a copy or take a picture of the form and other documents you’ve included - you might need this later.

You usually need to send 3 copies of everything to the court - they’ll keep one, return one to you and send one to the defendant. If you want to send the form to the defendant yourself, you must say so in your covering letter. Otherwise, the court will send it to the defendant.

You should send the forms to the court or drop them off in person. Get free proof of postage if you post them. Find out which court to send it to on GOV.UK.  It’s usually the court which is closest to the defendant’s address.

If you’ve filled in your form correctly and paid the fee (if you have to), the court will stamp the form and give it a claim number. This is called ‘issuing the claim’.

If you haven’t filled it in properly or have to pay a fee and don’t, they won’t issue your claim. This means you might miss the deadline to make a claim.   

You should also write to the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) to say you’ve started the court process. Sometimes they can get involved in the case - the legal term for this is intervening.

Check if you should send the form to the defendant

Once the court has issued the claim, it will usually send the form directly to the defendant unless you tell them you’ll send it to them yourself. The legal term for sending the form to the defendant is ‘serving’ it on them.

You’ll still need to send 3 copies to the court - they’ll send 2 copies back so you can pass one to the defendant if you’re serving it on the defendant yourself.

You might want to send the form to the defendant to give yourself more time to either prepare your case or try to settle the case. The court will normally send the defendant the form straight away but if you serve the claim yourself you’ll get 4 months to do it.

You can use the extra time to negotiate with the other side to try to reach an agreement out of court. This is a good idea if you didn’t send a letter before action or if you’re still negotiating but need to issue the claim to meet the deadline. Trying to reach an agreement can help you avoid extra costs in court.

If you’re sending the form yourself, it must reach the defendant within 4 months of when the claim was issued by the court. The court won’t tell you this date, so check Civil Procedure Parts 6 and 7 and Rule7.5 on GOV.UK which will tell you how to work it out.

The rules on service are complicated and vary depending on how you’re going to send the form - electronically, by first class post or personally.

If you want to serve the form electronically, you must get the other side to agree to accept service this way first.

Check if the defendant has given an address for service of documents. If they’re a company, this might be on their headed paper.

If the defendant has given you details for their solicitors, check if they can accept service of the claim. If they can, then send it to their solicitors. If not, send it to the defendant.

If you don’t serve the defendant properly or in time, they could defend the case on the basis that it’s out of time and ask the court to strike out your case. This could mean that you’d lose your opportunity to raise a claim.

If you’re not sure about the deadline, don’t wait until the last few days in case you miss the date for service. Get help from an adviser immediately or check Civil Procedure Rule 6 on GOV.UK.

If you need to serve the claim on someone outside of the UK the rules are different and you should get advice about how to serve the claim. You can also check the rules in Part 6 and Rule 7.5 of the Civil Procedure Rules.

If you've missed the deadline - making a late claim

You can sometimes take legal action after the deadline if the court agrees (this is called ‘making a late claim’). You’ll have to start your legal action and also ask for the court’s permission to make a late claim.

The court will only allow you to make a late claim if the judge thinks it’s fair to both sides - this is called being ‘just and equitable’. You shouldn’t rely on this though - it will depend on all the circumstances.

The court will look at the impact making a late claim would have on the case and if it would give you or the other side an advantage. They’ll also look at why your claim is late and how late it is.

For example, you might be able to take legal action if you were sick so you couldn’t take action earlier or if you were under 18 when the discrimination happened.

Act immediately as any delay could make it harder to get the court to accept your claim. Make sure you have evidence to prove the discrimination happened - if you don’t, you won’t win your case.

The law about this is in section 118 of the Equality Act 2010.

Pay the court fees

For the court to formally start the process, you must send or take your forms and copies to the court and pay a fee - this is called ‘issuing the claim’.

If you’re not asking for money, you need to pay £308 to issue the claim. If you’re asking for money, the cost depends on how much you’re asking for - check the costs on GOV.UK - look for the money claims section for a county court claim.

If you’re asking for money and something else - like an injunction to stop the unfair treatment - you might have to pay a fee for each.

If you’re on a low income, you might get the fees reduced or you might not have to pay any. Check if you can get help with your court costs on GOV.UK.

It’s best to try to pay the fee in person at the court. You can pay by cash, cheque, postal order, debit or credit card. If you don’t pay the correct court fee, the court won’t issue your claim - this could lead to you missing the deadline if you’re close to it.

You might be able to pay with a debit or credit card over the phone - check with your local court first. Find out your court’s contact details on GOV.UK.

After you’ve sent the claim form

If the other side wants to defend the claim, they’ll reply with a defence. This will explain their version of what happened - the court will send you a copy.

They should reply within 14 days of getting the particulars of claim, unless they send you ‘an acknowledgement of service’ - this gives them 28 days in total to send you their defence.

Check what they’ve said in the defence and make a note of anything you disagree with. Gather any evidence you have that proves them wrong - you can use this to defend yourself in court.

If the defendant doesn’t reply, you can apply for ‘default judgment’ - this means you win the case. Find out how to apply for default judgment.

You might still need to go to a hearing for the court to decide certain details. For example, they might want to decide the exact amount of money you’ll be awarded. The court will let you know the details.

If the defendant makes a claim against you

The defendant can take legal action against you if they think you owe them money or that they have another claim against you - this is called a ‘counterclaim’. Their claim might not be about discrimination but the claims usually have to be connected in some way. It will be up to the court whether they'll allow the claims to be heard within the same case.

For example, you’re asking your landlord to compensate you for discriminating against you - but you owe them lots of rent. Your landlord could make a claim against you for the amount of rent you owe.

If you disagree with their claim, you should respond to their counterclaim with details of what you disagree with - this is called a ‘defence to counterclaim’.

You usually need to respond within 14 days of getting the counterclaim. You can also ask for more to time to send your defence by sending an ‘acknowledgement of service’ first. This will give you 28 days to respond with a defence. Fill in the N9 form on GOV.UK and send this to the court and the defendant.

You’ll need to be able to prove your side of the story, but you don’t need to include evidence with your defence to counterclaim.

You should include:

  • your name and the name of the defendant
  • details of your defence to the counterclaim and your version of events - you should say whether you admit or deny any claims they’ve made against you
  • a signed statement of truth
  • the name of the court
  • the claim number

If the counterclaim is in numbered paragraphs, use the same structure for your defence - take each paragraph and respond to it. Say which parts of the paragraph you agree with and what parts you disagree with.

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