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Small Claims limit set to rise

For all cases issued after 1 April 2013 the "Small Claims Court" limit will rise from £5,000 to £10,000. Cases worth between £10,000 and £25,000 will still be dealt with in the fast track.

Many court users will welcome the extension of the small claims limit. The small claims court is a much-used facility of the County Court for litigants in person, businesses and consumers.

The key part of the small claims court is that there's no recovery of legal fees between the parties. Even if you win you don't recover any legal advice or representation costs.

This has led to a certain extent of de-lawyering of lower-value cases, where having legal representation is usually not cost-effective. No win no fee agreements aren't available for small claims court cases because there's no mechanism for the solicitor to recover costs against the loser.

Typical small claims cases have included consumer claims about cars, or shoddy workmanship. Businesses have been using the small claims court to recover unpaid invoices and resolve minor contractual disputes. Recovering insurance excesses also occupies the small claims jurisdiction. Sometimes householders have legal expenses insurance or uninsured loss recovery insurance.

Wards clients have regularly sought our help with small claims cases.

As a result we have developed fixed-fee services for important steps like the first letter, drafting the claim and setting out the claimants' case clearly.

We have also, in more valuable cases, been able to offer a "hand-holding" pay-as-you-go type service for businesses and litigants in person, who want to make the most of their chances of winning a claim.

With the extension of the limit to £10,000, which is, after all, still a substantial sum of money, we expect that our clients will want to make greater use of the local specialist knowledge available at our offices across Bristol and North Somerset.

Another feature of the review of county court dispute resolution will be a greater encouragement of the use of mediation.

Mediation is a process of assisted negotiation, where an independent neutral mediator listens to each side then assists them to reach their own agreement. It has a remarkable success rate of over 80%. Wards has a qualified mediator in its disputes team who has a wealth of experience helping people use mediation - both representing one side at a mediation or being appointed to mediate a dispute by both sides. We can offer easily accessible mediation rooms at Bradley Stoke or if you prefer the city centre, in Broad Street in Bristol. We will negotiate fixed fees to represent you at mediation or to mediate your dispute.

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