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Why e-sue? | Introduction

 

What we do

e-sue provides professional county court litigation and dispute resolution services to consumers and businesses alike at more affordable rates than your solicitors. We don't charge hourly rates, and quote instead by the work your require. Although our name may suggest that we only sue the other side, this is far from the true position. Our primary aim is to resolve the legal difficulties we all find ourselves in from time to time. Although we do draft law suits through our drafting partners, agreements.co.uk, this is the final approach, and not one we take lightly. Litigation should always be a last resort when other avenues of negotiation have failed and the parties have reached deadlock. Even after suing, mediation between the parties can still resolve a dispute, as you bargain in the shadow of the litigation.

So why not just DIY?

Civil litigation can be complex and difficult, particularly if you do not have an expert knowledge of both the law relating to your dispute and the correct processes you are required to go though. If you could have resolved your problem yourself, you would presumably not be researching our assistance. Often a professional intermediary who understands the legal issues who is not emotionally attached to the outcome of your case can be in a better position than you to negotiate an economical solution, either before or after service of proceedings.

Are you legally qualified?

Yes, your case will be assigned to a manager or Trainee Solicitor with at least an honours degree in law. Some of our managers hold a Masters in Law and specialise in particular areas of law, such as Commercial Law. All are trained in litigation and will advise you of the best way forward for your case.

Do you handle every kind of case?

Not every case, no. For example we don't specialise in Employment Law, Family Law, Personal Injury, Defamation, international litigation etc. But we do handle most cases that go through the county court system though. Some examples are eBay disputes, faulty goods or services, harassment claims against debt collectors, commercial debt collection, defending breach of copyright claims, breaches of contract, unreturned deposits, gym memberships, car clampers, ripoff traders, etc.

Can we sue straight away?

No, and sometimes a letter from us to the other side setting out the legal issues is all that is required to settle your claim. In any event, both you and the other side are governed by the so called "Pre-action Protocols" - steps you must take before you sue, and also the "Overriding Objective", part of which requires you to observe certain timetables for each stage of your claim, including the pre-action stage. This is intended to lead to a system that is just in the results it delivers, fair in the way it treats the parties, and easily understood by users of the county court system, although we would disagree with the last point - court procedure can be highly complex for non-lawyers.

What are the various stages of your claim?

Stage 1 - Case Analysis

For anything but the most straightforward of cases, we need to undertake a case analysis. We need to analyse your "cause of action", i.e. the legal basis for your claim and to assess your prospects of success and highlight the strengths and weaknesses of your case. To do this, you must tell us all the facts of your case - what was said, when and by whom, and send copies of any contracts, documents or correspondence relating to it.

In the most straightforward of actions we make no charge for this stage. More typically, where we need to work through all the facts, our fee for analysing your case would be £30. However in more complex time-consuming cases with copious paperwork, lengthy notes or complex areas of law requiring research, we shall come back and quote you for this stage. However as a guide, a complex case may cost between £50 and £90 to analyse - still a fraction of the cost of most high street solicitors.

Stage 2 - Advice on ways to proceed with your claim

It may be that your issue would best be addressed by alternatives to litigation, e.g. approaching an arbitrator, ombudsman or governing body, and in these cases our advice to you may be that you may not need to escalate your case to a court for adjudication to reach a satisfactory conclusion.

Letter Before Claim

However in the absence of these options, we would approach the other side for you or, if you prefer, we would draft suitable correspondence for you to send in your own name. If we do write to the other side, we can send a Letter Before Claim at this stage, outlining a summary of the facts, setting out the law applicable to your case and the nature and amount of the claim you are making against them. Depending upon your instructions we might offer to settle on certain terms within a particular timeframe as an incentive to settle early.

Our Letter Before Claim would typically set out:

  • your full name and address;
  • the basis on which the claim is made;
  • a summary of the facts on which the claim is based;
  • what you require from the other side;
  • if a financial loss is claimed, how it has been calculated;
  • a list of the essential documents upon which you shall rely;
  • the date by which a full response is expected;
  • identification of, and a request for, copies of any relevant documents not in our possession that we may require.

We would point out at this stage that the court is empowered to impose sanctions for the other side's failure to comply with the Practice Direction requiring their co-operation, and pointing out that ignoring this letter may result in you issuing proceedings and increasing their liability for your costs.

Stage 3 - Assessment of the way forward

The other side's response to the Letter Before Claim may throw some light on their defence, if any, to your claim. This may also provide you with an opportunity to correct any misunderstanding as to the facts of the case, and to negotiate a settlement without the need to issue proceedings. At the very least, you should be in a position to narrow down the scope of subsequent court proceedings and therefore limit potential costs.

Depending on the type of claim you are making, you might require an expert witness to advise the court on matters outside the judge's knowledge, e.g. a dispute over a service to your car may require a mechanic, or the fitting of a new central heating boiler that went wrong may require a central heating engineer to give evidence.

Alternative Dispute Resolution may be advisable in some cases, and the courts can impose costs sanctions against parties who unreasonably refuse to enter into ADR prior to litigation.

Stage 4 - Issuing Proceedings

The way you word your Particulars of Claim can have an important impact on your case. If you do not frame your claim appropriately, it can be struck out before hearing, or you may be forbidden to make claims for items not properly pleaded in your claim.

We charge between £100 to £500 to draft your Particulars of Claim, depending on the complexity of the case, and once we have had sight of all the papers, we will be in a position to quote you for this drafting.

Will you be in court representing me?

Although e-sue will guide you through the complex litigation process by e-mail and telephone, we would not accompany you to court. However we can help you select a suitable barrister to represent you on the day if the case is sufficiently important to warrant representation.

You should bear in mind that, for claims in the 'Small Claims Track' (generally £5,000 and under) you cannot claim back the cost of representation, even if you win, so being represented in court under the 'Small Claims Track' can be costly. If your case is in the 'Fast Track' or 'Multi Track' then costs are usually awarded to the winner.

Bear in mind that the whole purpose of using e-sue is to cut your litigation costs, whilst receiving the advice, drafting services and representation outside court you may require at an economical rate. Of course you would be unable to cut litigation costs if e-sue offered exactly the same range of services as your local solicitors.

How will the court manage my case?

The court will:

  • encourage the parties to co-operate with each other in the conduct of proceedings;
  • identify the issues at an early stage;
  • decide which issues need full investigation at trial and accordingly dispose of the others;
  • decide the order in which issues are to be resolved;
  • encourage the parties to use ADR if appropriate;
  • help the parties to settle the whole or part of the case;
  • fix timetables or otherwise control the progress of the case;
  • consider whether the likely benefits of taking a particular step justify the cost of taking it;
  • deal with as many aspects of the case as it can on the same occasion;
  • deal with the case without the parties needing to attend court;
  • make use of technology; and
  • give directions to ensure that the trial of a case proceeds quickly and efficiently.

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