The Claims Process – Directions Questionnaire
Judges are required to actively manage cases and, in doing so, must deal with each case proportionately and appropriately.
Judges allocate defended claims to one of four procedural tracks. These are:
- Small Claims Track
- Fast Track
- Intermediate Track
The procedural track that a case is allocated to depends on a number of factors, including:
- The financial value.
- The nature of the remedy sought.
- The complexity of the facts, law and evidence.
- The number of parties or likely parties.
- The value of any counterclaim.
- The number of witnesses likely to be called.
- Whether expert evidence is needed.
- Whether any party intends to make any applications and, if so, what for.
- Costs estimates.
- A trial time estimate.
- The importance of the claim to persons who are not parties to the proceedings.
- The views expressed by the parties generally.
A court officer will provisionally decide which track appears to be the most suitable for the claim and will serve a notice of proposed allocation on the parties
The Directions Questionnaire is then completed by the parties to a claim in order to assist the Court in deciding which track a claim should be allocated to. There are separate questionnaires for the small claims track, and fast, intermediate and multi-track which are explored in further detail, below.
In addition, claims issued on or after 1 October 2023 which are allocated to the fast track or the intermediate track must also be assigned to a complexity band which will determine the level of fixed recoverable costs applicable.
Small Claims Directions Questionnaire
This questionnaire is completed by parties to claims where it appears likely that the claim will be allocated to the Small Claims Track as the financial value is less than £10,000.
This questionnaire requires less information than the Fast-Track Intermediate-Track and Multi-Track questionnaire, but asks the parties some questions that are specific to the Small Claims Track. These include:
- Whether the parties agree for the case to be referred to the Small Claims Mediation Service. If both parties agree to this then the case will be referred to the Small Claims Mediation Service, which provides for 1 hour of free mediation via telephone in order for the parties to seek to agree a resolution. We will explore this further in another article later in this series of articles, which will cover methods of Alternative Dispute Resolution.
- Whether the parties consider the case to be suitable for determination without a hearing. If either party considers the case not to be suitable for determination without a hearing, they must give reasons why.
Fast-Track Intermediate-Track and Multi-Track Directions Questionnaire
This questionnaire is completed by parties to claims with a financial value of more than £10,000.
This questionnaire requires more information than the Small Claims questionnaire and will ask questions specific to the Fast, Intermediate and Multi-Track. These include:
- Whether the parties wish to stay the court process in order to give them further time to negotiate. If unreasonably refused, this could lead to an adverse costs order so it is better to avoid rejecting any offer to stay proceedings from the other side.
- Whether an expert is being instructed to provide their opinion on a point in issue; and
- Whether any witnesses are being called in order for the court to more accurately gauge the likely time estimate for the trial.
All parties must complete and return the questionnaire and send with it any other documents the court has specified. This must be done by the deadline set out in the notice of proposed allocation.
Once the Court has received the questionnaires and any supporting documentation, it will then consider the directions and allocate to the appropriate track. As of the 1st of October 2023, the Court will now assign each claim a band relating to the complexity of the case and which will go on to determine the level of recoverable costs.
Where a party is legally represented and the value of the claim means that it would, but for other considerations be allocated to the Multi-Track, a Costs Budget, often referred to as a Precedent H must be filed.
Part 7 Multi-Track cases require that all parties must file and exchange budgets. These budgets will indicate what each party estimates their costs will be for each stage of the proceedings going forward.
In Multi-Track cases where the claim value is below £50,000 then the Costs Budget must be filed with the Directions Questionnaire pursuant to CPR Rule 3.13 a.
Failure to file a Costs Budget means that your recoverable costs are limited to the applicable Court fees only, so always make sure you file in time!