What are Pre-Action Protocols?
Solicitor, Katarina Brazell, explains about the importance of Pre-Action Protocols in dispute resolution.
Embarking on or receiving any potential threat of litigation is daunting. The first thing that springs to mind is probably the expense and time needed to be invested, along with the added stress it will bring which most people already in their lives.
Lawyers and judges appreciate that as humans, we react to stress and pressure in different ways. This is why we have pre-action protocols: to help stream-line the process before court proceedings take place.
Pre-Action Protocols in litigation aim to formalise matters before court proceedings are commenced. Their focus is to ensure the parties narrow the issues in dispute and try to seek resolve before a party issues a claim.
There are specific protocols that apply to different types of dispute and you (or your solicitor) will have to abide by the correct one. The protocols range from construction disputes, to professional negligence and personal injury.
Depending on which of the protocols apply, generally, the initially stages of a claim will involve the “Claimant” sending a Letter of Claim to the potential “Defendant”. That letter will set out the basis on which a claim is being sought usually setting out what the Claimant wants ultimately. It will also allow the Defendant reasonable time to respond to such allegations and set out any potential counterclaim it may have against the Claimant, if applicable.
Once the Letter of Claim and Letter of Response have been sent, the parties are encouraged to continue the flow of correspondence to try and resolve their dispute. This may involve instructing necessary experts or considering alternative dispute resolution such as mediation.
Lawyers will most often advise that following the Pre-Action Protocols are necessary, simply because the court can apply sanctions to a party for non-compliance. It is therefore important that you consider your position carefully before you simply issue a claim at court!
Litigation is risky business and can involve large sums at play. It is always advisable to seek legal advice before any proceedings are commenced, or if you have received a Letter of Claim, and if not, at least follow the applicable Pre-Action Protocol.