Litigation - General

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Civil litigation is a process for resolving public and private legal disputes on civil matters, those between individuals and or organisations, through negotiation or through the courts.

Commercial litigation involves the resolution of disputes arising in the corporate and commercial sectors and is described on a separate “Areas of Law” page on this site.

There are numerous types of possible civil claims. You may have been injured or defamed. You might be owed money by someone who has failed to pay, or you may have contracted a disease as a result of some condition in your workplace.

The first step is to establish whether you have a claim, and this is usually done by taking advice from a solicitor.

If you decide to go ahead, there is a pre-action period and civil litigation is governed by pre-action protocols. These are court rules governing the conduct of the parties before they issue any formal court proceedings. There are different protocols for different types of claims (personal injury, debt collection, and so forth) and there is also a court practice direction on pre-action conduct that applies generally in all civil litigation matters.

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Essentially, the pre-action rules require that the claimant provide the defendant with a detailed "letter before claim" setting out the claimant's case. The defendant then has an opportunity to respond. Once that process is underway, and the parties get an understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of their respective sides of the case, they might consider alternative dispute resolution (ADR) and/or settlement. This avoids what could be costly and lengthy court proceedings and only a relatively small percentage of civil litigation cases actually make it to trial.

With the exception of civil fraud and defamation cases there is no right to trial by jury – the trial will be determined by the judge alone.

In giving its judgment, the court will assign liability, give an award of damages (or other money judgment), and make an order as to interest and costs.