If you have been let down by a company, the law may allow you to enforce your rights and be compensated for any losses or injuries that have resulted.
The legal process you will need to follow to sue a company will depend on your reasons for making a claim, your relationship with the company and in some cases, the amount of compensation you could expect to receive.
Companies may have certain responsibilities towards you in regards to keeping you safe whilst on their premises or using their products, and by ensuring they carry out their services in a reasonable way.
Whether you are suing for a personal injury that occurred as a result of the company’s negligent act or omission, or are suing for professional negligence in the provision of goods or services, there are three things that must be proven.
- That the company owed you a duty of care
- That the company breached that duty of care; and
- That you suffered damage as a result of that breach.
How to sue a company for negligence may also depend on your relationship to them; for instance where an employer has been negligent in regards to their statutory health and safety duties, this may be heard in an employment tribunal rather than the civil courts.
In regards to how to sue a company for property disputes, it is the same regardless of the nature of the dispute. One of the most common property disputes is nuisance; such as a public house beside your property causing a noise nuisance at night. Noise however is not the only nuisance that can be actioned. Anything that meets the following criteria may potentially be considered a nuisance by the courts.
- There must be activity or a state of affairs
- That causes substantial or unreasonable interference with your use or enjoyment of the land.
Whether or not an activity or state of affairs constitutes a nuisance depends greatly on circumstances, therefore not all activities or states of affair will be considered unreasonable or substantial in relation to how it interferes with your use of the property. For instance, noise from building works may be a substantial interference in a quiet residential street, but not on a main road in a city.
Suing a company for property disputes also extends to anything held on the company’s land that has caused damage to your property, such as escaping animals; however it must be proven that the item that escaped was as a result of a non-natural use of the land. This in effect means that any ordinary consequence of the use of the land will not apply.
You may also sue a company for a trespass to land; however it must be proven that the persons or items that encroached on the land did so due to the company’s encouragement or negligence in prevention of the trespass.
If a company owes you a debt, you have recourse to the courts to recover the amount if the company does not pay what they owe. There are various options available to recover money owed. Seek specialist debt recovery advice on the most appropriate course of action for your circumstances.
The civil courts also protect against defamatory statements made that damage the reputation of another. You may be able to sue a company for defamation if the circumstances meet the following criteria:
- A statement was made that intended to injure reputation;
- That referred to the claimant and is identifiable as such;
- Which was communicated to a third party
The law on defamation is highly complex and subject to a number of statutory and common law defences. Therefore you will need to obtain specialist guidance if you are looking for advice regarding how to sue a company for defamation.
Consumer rights: retailers or service providers
A company has various legal responsibilities toward you as a consumer, including among other things, the standards of the service or goods provided to you. Therefore if a company breaches the standards required by law under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, you may be able to take action to recover losses as a result of the breach.
When you purchase goods or services from a company it creates a contract between you, therefore if for example the item is faulty, you have certain rights under the Consumer Rights Act 2015. This includes:
- Goods should be of satisfactory quality;
- Fit for purpose
- As described
- That a service is provided with reasonable care and skill
Therefore if goods fail to meet these standards you as a consumer have the right to:
- Reject the goods or service
- The right to repair or replacement
If a company does not fulfil their obligations and uphold your statutory rights, you may be able to take action against them in the civil courts.
How to sue a company
Claims for the aforementioned are made through the civil courts. Each claim will be allocated to a ‘track’ depending on the circumstances:
- Small claims track for claims up to £10,000
- Fast track for claims between £10,000 and £25,000
- Multi-track for claims exceeding £25,000
Making a small claim
The small claims track was intended to be a quicker and easier process for smaller and less complex claims. The majority of small claims can be made using the online Money Claim Online (MCOL) service. You will not be able to claim online:
- If you are suing for an accident or injury
- If you are claiming against more than one party
- If you need help paying court fees
- It is for more than £10,000
- It is for an unspecified amount
If any of the above apply, you must apply by post using Form N1.Once your claim has been successfully filed, the judge will decide which track your claim is to be allocated to.
Each track has a specific process that needs to be followed in relation to submitting evidence and documentation among other things. There are precise deadlines that need to be met alongside compliance with the Civil Procedure Rules and any applicable pre-action protocol. As such it is crucial that you seek advice at the earliest opportunity to ensure your claim follows these procedures so it does not compromise your case.
While small claims should be relatively straightforward to process, fast track and multi-track invariably involve a significantly more complex claims process involving strict evidential and documentary requirements issued by the court. You may also be required to attend various pre-trial hearings and prepare statements and other witnesses ahead of a trial.
How much does it cost to sue a company?
The application fee varies greatly depending on the amount of money you intend to recover. Application fees start at £25 for online claims of up to £300; to fees of £10,000 for claims more than £200,000.
The amount you pay also depends on how you apply, with online application fees slightly less than paper applications.
Are there time limits to sue a company?
There are limitations on how long you have to issue court proceedings depending on the reason for your claim. For instance:
- Personal injury cases must be initiated within 3 years of the injury
- Defamation cases must be brought within 1 year of the statement
- Contractual disputes must be issued within 6 years
Therefore it is important to seek expert legal advice as soon as you think you might need to sue a company to make sure you do not miss the limitation periods.
Why legal advice helps
Suing a company can become a complex, lengthy and expensive process. Taking early legal advice for specialist guidance on the best course of action for your circumstances.