- 12 minute read
- Last updated: 16th August 2019
A directions questionnaire is designed to provide relevant information for the courts to give the necessary instructions to parties to a claim.
This article covers:
- Small Claims
- Multi-track and Fast track claims
- Common pitfalls when completing the Directions Questionnaire
- How legal advice can help you complete the directions questionnaire
There are three procedural tracks for defended claims – small claims, fast track, and multi-track – and the answers you provide in your directions questionnaire will determine which track your claim will be allocated to.
- Small claims are those valued at less than £10,000. These will require form N180 to be completed
- For multi-track and fast-track claims, form N181 is to be used.
You will need to provide the following information:
Section A – Settlement/mediation
The directions questionnaire will first ask if the parties involved agree to have the case referred to the Small Claims Mediation Service. This service is free of charge and is designed to help you resolve your dispute without the need to go to court.
If you agree, the mediation service will contact you directly to arrange the mediation.
Where mediation is not an option, or did not resolve the matter, you will need to complete the remainder of the application and send your completed questionnaire to the court by the specified date. Late applications will not be considered.
Section B – Contact details
Provide your up to date contact details for court representatives or the mediation service to be able to contact you.
Section C – Track
Confirm which track you consider the case should be allocated to. This would usually be a matter of confirming the small claims track, or alternatively, you will need to provide reason why you consider another track is appropriate.
Section D – Hearing information
Specify which at court the case should be heard, how many witnesses will be giving evidence in support of your claim, and to request permission for expert evidence to be submitted.
Once the court has received the directions questionnaire, they will allocate your claim to the relevant track and court. You will also need to send copies of your completed questionnaire to the other parties involved in the claim.
Should you have any queries about completing the N180 form, take professional legal advice to avoid any issues.
For fast track cases valued between £10,000 and £25,000, and multi-track cases (claims exceeding £25,000), the Directions Questionnaire is more extensive.
Section A – Settlement
In this section, you will be asked whether you are seeking to ‘stay’ (ie delay) court proceedings to allow for mediation or negotiation. If you are considering rejecting an offer to mediate or negotiate, you should consult a specialist litigation solicitor to establish if you have reasonable grounds to do so. If the court perceives your refusal as unreasonable, you may receive an adverse costs order.
Section B – Court
This section allows you to request to transfer the hearing to a different district registry or particular division, for which you will need to provide your reasoning.
Section C – Pre Action Protocols
The court will expect you to have followed all relevant pre-action protocols. This will involve the exchange of relevant documents and information between all parties. It is a good idea to discuss this with your legal adviser to ensure all pre-action protocols have been complied with prior to submitting your form to the court.
Failure to comply with the pre action protocols could result in costs sanctions, and if the other party has fully complied, they could have a significant advantage.
Section D – Case management information
D1 – The court will want to know if you have any existing applications in the claim and if so, details of what these are for and when they will be heard.
If you have asked the court to allocate the claim as fast track, you will need to state these reasons in D2.
D2 – Claims are usually allocated to a track based on the amount in dispute but you can cite other factors such as complexity of the matter as the basis for allocating the track.
D3 – In respect of multi-track cases only, you will need to detail if any agreements have been reached with the other side and what disclosures have been made so far. If agreements have not been reached, this is the part where you will say what you were unable to agree upon and why.
D4 – This section covers disclosure of documents.
Section E – Experts
In some cases, the professional opinion of an expert can be beneficial to support and evidence a claim.
The expert must be considered independent and proportionate to your case. The level of expertise will vary from case to case, but your solicitor will be able to assist you with finding the correct professional expert for your case.
In this section, you should detail your proposal for use of an expert witness.
Depending on the level of the claim, the courts may only require a written report from an expert, but in other cases, the expert may be required to attend court and give evidence.
Section F – Witnesses
You will need to list every witness you intend to call to trial, and specify the point of fact on which they will be providing their evidence.
Section G – Trial or final hearing
This section requires you to give the best estimate of the length of time you think the court will need to decide your case. This should be discussed with the opposing side and a realistic estimate submitted. Any alterations during the trial could lead to the trial being adjourned.
You will need to confirm dates that you, essential witnesses or experts are unavailable due to prior commitments such as holidays.
Section H – Costs
This section will only need to be completed if you have legal representation or if the case is not subject to fixed costs.
Section I – Other information
In this section, you should state if you intend to bring any future applications. You also have the opportunity to provide any other information to assist the court in managing the claim. Specialist advice will ensure you use this section effectively to support your claim.
Section J – Directions
You are required to attempt to agree proposed directions with all other parties involved and to enclose a draft of the order for directions whether this has been agreed or not. Your solicitor will be able to help ensure you meet this requirement.
Form N180 may be largely straight forward but form N181 is complex and would usually require the support of a legal professional.
In all instances, when looking at the directions questionnaire, there are some basics you should ensure are covered:
- Follow all relevant pre-action protocols – errors or omissions can result in your case being dismissed, regardless of the merits of strength of your case.
- Correctly identify the person or party you have a claim against. If your claim is against a company rather than an individual, you need to refer to the company name in the documentation. However, if your claim is against the person who runs the business, it is their name that should go on the form. Also ensure you have spelt the name correctly and if it is a business, make sure you have the name correctly with the correct type of corporation (for example ltd, plc).
- Claiming outside the statute of limitation is another common pitfall. You must ensure your claim is made within the required time frame. Take legal advice on your specific circumstances.
- It is advisable to check the solvency status of any potential defendant as this could affect your decision to proceed with a claim.
- Trying to claim for a loss that has already been recovered is not permitted. If another court has already made a ruling on the claim, you cannot claim again.
- You need to ensure that you can fund the court costs and legal fees if the decision goes against you.
While the small claims process is intended to support parties in bringing action without the need for legal advice or representation, more complex matters typically require professional guidance.
Procedural errors or issues with evidence, for example, can negatively impact the outcome of the matter for you.
The matters contained in this article are intended to be for general information purposes only. This article does not constitute legal advice, nor is it a complete or authoritative statement of the law, and should not be treated as such. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the information is correct, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy and no liability is accepted for any error or omission. Before acting on any of the information contained herein, expert legal advice should be sought.