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How to use simple procedure

This advice applies to Scotland

Simple procedure allows you to apply to civil court to claim money you’re owed by a person or a business. It can also be used by a person or business to get money from you.

It provides an informal and cost effective way to settle claims worth up to £5,000. More about simple procedure.

If you have to settle a claim that is worth more than £5,000 you can't use simple procedure. You should consider using a solicitor to take any legal action as the court rules can be complex.

In most cases, a claim for more than £5,000 would fall under ordinary procedure rules. You might be eligible for civil legal aid if you’re on a low income, which means you would get some help with the costs of a solicitor. You can contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau for more help.

Before you start simple procedure

Before you start simple procedure, make sure you’ve tried to settle the dispute out of court. Going to court should be a last resort. 

It's worth reading the simple procedure guidance on the Scottish Courts and Tribunals website. This tells you what happens with a case.

You should also consider consulting an experienced adviser for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau.

Make sure you check the time limits 

There are strict time limits for some types of claim. For example if you’re taking someone to court for discrimination, you need to have submitted a claim to the sheriff court and had the claim ‘served’ on the other side within 6 months less 1 day from the date you were discriminated against.

To find out if you case has a time limit, get advice at a Citizens Advice Bureau or seek legal advice.

How to start a claim

When you make a claim, you're what's known as the 'claimant' and the other party is the 'respondent'.

You can make a claim using simple procedure in one of two ways:

  • using the Scottish Courts and Tribunals’ online portal, Civil Online

  • downloading and printing off form 3A and then either posting it or hand-delivering to the sheriff court.

If you are using Civil Online, there is guidance on the Scottish Courts and Tribunals website. If you are completing the paper form, there is Citizens Advice guidance on how to complete the paper form

The cost of using Civil Online and the paper forms is the same. Find out more about the cost of simple procedure and if you're exempt from paying court fees.

What happens after you submit the claim form

Once you have completed the claim form and paid the fee, the sheriff clerk will then check and register the claim. A timetable will then be issued for the case. 

When the claim is registered this creates a formal court document giving permission to 'serve' the claim on the Respondent but also to call any witnesses that need to be called.

The claim form can be 'served' either by recorded delivery post, a sheriff clerk, a solicitor or sheriff officers.

When you are dealing with the claim yourself, and do not have a legal representative, it may be wise to let the court service do this. Formal service will be completed by the sheriff clerk. There is a fee for this service both from the court service (£13) plus the sheriff officer’s fee. Find out more about the cost of simple procedure.

How long does simple procedure take

After you have submitted a claim form, the sheriff will formally register your claim. They will then issue a timetable for the case. You will receive this through Civil Online or through the post (depending on what you originally opted for).

The timetable has two dates:

  • the last date on which the claim must be formally served on the respondent 
  • the last date by which the Respondent must reply to the court.

There is normally a period of 3 weeks between these 2 dates.

If you need to change the timetable, you can apply through Civil Online or by using form 3E .

How to track the progress of your claim online

If you are using Civil Online, you can track the progress of your case on the Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service website. You can also use Civil Online to:

  • submit, open, save and print court documents
  • receive documents from the court
  • pay court fees
  • respond to any claim lodged
  • be told when documents are available from the respondent.

Make sure you stick to the timetable

As the claimant you have to take care to stick to the timetable for your case. It’s important you keep track of what the respondent has done or not done.

How the other party responds

Once the sheriff has served the claim form, the following could happen:

  • respondent admits the claim - the respondent pays in full
  • respondent asks for time to pay - sheriff will ask you if you agree to time to pay. By asking for time to pay the respondent is admitting that they owe you the money
  • respondent admits claim but hasn't paid in full - sheriff will make a decision about what happens next
  • respondent denies claim - sheriff decides if there needs to be a case management discussion and/or a hearing. The Response form allows the respondent to call witnesses.

The claim could be settled at this stage. Therefore it’s really important that you keep track of what happens here. If you don’t do anything then the claim could be dismissed. Find out more about the powers of the sheriff in civil legal action below the value of £5,000.

If a respondent doesn’t reply by the last date

If the respondent doesn’t reply by the deadline date, you have two weeks to make an Application for a Court Decision. You can do this through Civil Online or by filling in form 7A  and sending it in the post or hand-delivering it to the sheriff court.

If you fail to make the Application for a Court Decision then the case will be dismissed. If you do submit the application, the sheriff will usually make a decision in your favour.

However the respondent does have the right to make a late application to the court to recall any decision made by the sheriff if they initially failed to respond.

What happens when the respondent denies a claim

When a respondent denies a claim under the simple procedure, the sheriff can call a case management discussion or a hearing.

Sheriff calls a case management discussion

A case management discussion will be held if the sheriff thinks it is needed to discuss the claim. One reason why this might be needed could be if the respondent has accepted part of your claim against them but disputes some of it.

If you don’t appear at any further proceedings, for example a case management discussion, the sheriff can dismiss your claim.

Sheriff calls a hearing

A sheriff can call a hearing if it appears that you and the other party in the case has evidence to present and witnesses to examine.

Who can represent you in court

Depending on the value of your claim, you can either choose to represent yourself, or you can use a lay representative or a solicitor. More information, including advice about having a family or friend with you in court, can be found on the Scottish Courts and Tribunals website.

Representing yourself 

You can represent yourself in court in a simple procedure hearing. If you decide to do so, you’ll be called the party litigant. More about help you can get in court.

Using a lay representative 

You can also use a lay representative in the sheriff court. In some situations the lay representative can appear in court instead of you. More about using a lay representative.

Using a solicitor 

You can have a solicitor to act for you if you want but it may be expensive. There may also be limited financial help for paying for a solicitor and not every solicitor is willing to work on a case funded by legal aid. More about using a solicitor.

How to enforce the court's decision

If the person or company you claimed against loses and doesn’t pay, you can use your court decision to ask a sheriff officer to have the decision enforced. Only a sheriff officer can enforce the decision. More about the sheriff’s powers in simple procedure cases.

How to appeal a court decision

You may be able to appeal the court’s decision. If you decide to appeal you must do so within 28 days of the decision letter being sent to you.

You can get legal aid for an appeal under the simple procedure. It may be worthwhile to get some legal help as an appeal can only be made on a point of law and it may not be clear whether the basis of your appeal is on a point of law. You can appeal through Civil Online or by filling out form 16A .

Reaching an agreement out of court

It’s a good idea to keep speaking to the other side once you’ve started legal action,
unless they're harassing you. You might be able to reach an agreement with them.

If you do, you can stop the legal process - this is called settling. The court might encourage you to try to settle.

You can do this even if you’ve tried to reach a settlement before you started legal action.

You should ask the respondent to pay your legal costs (known as expenses in Scotland) and court fees as part of the settlement.

If you agree a settlement, get it in writing - you’ll then have a record in case they change their minds. More about settling a consumer problem outside of court.

If you need to pause your case

You can send the respondent an application stating why you want to pause the case. For example, if you’re having mental health problems or have suffered a bereavement.

This could be can completed using Civil Online or form 9a . If you are using form 9a, you also have to send a copy to the court. The court doesn’t have to grant your application and the respondent can object. More guidance is available on the Scottish Courts website.

If you want to withdraw your case

If you want to stop your claim because, for example, you have reached an agreement with the person you were taking the claim against, you have to do this before the sheriff decides about the case. If the case has got as far as the sheriff being involved in assessing the claim you have to let this go ahead. You can let the court know that you think an agreement can be reached.

If you can stop your claim because the sheriff is not yet involved you have to use Abandonment Notice Form 9E . You have to send the Abandonment Notice to the person you are making the claim against and a copy of the Abandonment Notice and proof the person you are making the claim against was sent a copy to the sheriff court. The sheriff then takes over and makes some court orders called 'written orders'.

The orders can:

  • dismiss the claim
  • order that no expenses are awarded to either party
  • order that some money is paid to cover fees etc
  • arrange an expenses hearing

More about simple procedure

Costs of civil court action using the simple procedure
Help with legal costs
Help with the simple procedure claim form
Do you need help with a legal case

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