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What Procedural Steps do I Need to Take?

After you have decided what court to bring a case in, you have to work out what procedural steps you need to take in order to bring a valid claim. Key steps often include:

  • Notification: Letting the defendant know you intend to bring a claim;
  • Filing your claim in court: Formally submitting your “claim form” and submissions to court;
  • Serving your claim: Delivering your key case documents to the defendant; and
  • Disclosure: Exchanging evidence that you will rely on with the court and defendant.

If you don’t follow the correct procedures in your case, there’s a risk your case will be dismissed. For that reason, it’s very important you check what procedure applies to your case.

Procedures will change in different countries and types of cases. We outline common steps in civil, public and criminal cases below.

1

Civil Cases

Common procedural steps in civil cases are outlined below:

Civil Claim Procedure

  • 1

    Notification

    Consider whether to notify the defendant corporation that you are going to bring a claim. In some cases, it may be unwise to do this if there's a risk the defendant will destroy important evidence and/or remove assets from the country in question.

  • 2

    File your claim

    File your case in court within the relevant time period after the harm occurred. This could involve giving the court a "claim form".

  • 3

    Present your statement of claim

    Present your grounds for the claim to the court, which will be shared with the defendants. This document is referred to as a "statement of claim", "statement of case", "particulars of claim" and "complaint". These documents and your claim form will then have to be shared with or "served" upon the defendant.

  • 4

    The defence

    The defendant will provide a "defence" which outlines their arguments They may say your version of events is wrong, argue their actions were not unlawful, or argue you cannot bring your case due to procedural reasons.

  • 5

    Interim Applications

    Consider whether to apply to the court to freeze the defendant's assets, force the defendant to disclose key documents/evidence in their possession, or apply for permission to use expert witnesses. Sometimes these need to be made immediately when you file your case.

  • 6

    Interim Hearings

    There may be "interim hearings" on relating to interim applications, specific legal or evidential issues before trial. For example, the defendant may apply for your case to be dismissed before trial. This could lead to a "mini trial" to see if your case has some chance of success.

  • 7

    Disclosure

    The defendant and you may be asked to exchange evidence you rely on If you are using witnesses, you will usually need to include what they are going to say in a "witness statement"

  • 8

    Trial

    Once evidence has been exchanged, the court will generally notify the parties of a date for the main court hearing (sometimes called the "trial"). At trial, you will present your arguments, the judge will ask questions, witnesses will give oral evidence and can be questioned by the lawyers. The court then makes its decision.

  • 9

    Judgment

    Once the main trial is over, the judge will consider each of the parties' arguments and form a decision, often in the form of a "judgment".

  • 10

    Appeal

    The losing party generally will have the right to appeal this judgement before a higher court.

2

Administrative, Constitutional and Human Rights Cases

The procedure in public law cases is often similar to civil cases, with some minor variations. Common steps are outlined below:

Public Law Procedure

  • 1

    Notify the defendant

    Write a formal letter to the proposed defendant setting out the proposed claim and what you wish to achieve. A response is usually requested from the defendant.

  • 2

    File your claim form

    Submit your "claim form" to court within the required "time period" (there is usually a number of months of years after the incident within which you must file your claim).

  • 3

    Present your statement of claim

    Present your grounds for the claim to the court, which will be shared with the defendants. This document can be referred to as a "statement of claim", "statement of case", "particulars of claim" and "complaint". This then have to be shared with or "served" on the defendant.

  • 4

    The permission phase

    In some countries, you have to apply for permission to bring a public law claim. This is a process where your claim is vetted to see if it's credible or has reasonable prospects of success before the defendant has to respond. The defendant can present arguments at this stage. In other countries, the claimant does not have to apply for permission but the defendant can make an application to dismiss the case or apply for summary judgment. The court will then decide whether the case is sufficiently credible or has reasonable prospects of success in order to decide whether to allow it to continue.

  • 5

    The defence

    Defendants will then have a chance to explain their position. They can either accept all or part of your claim, or deny your version of events in full. This document is known as the "defence".

  • 6

    Disclosure or exchange of evidence

    You and the defendant may be asked to share the evidence you are relying with each other. If you are using witnesses, you will usually need to include what they are going to say in a "witness statement" or "affidavit".

  • 7

    Notification of a hearing date

  • 8

    The Hearing

    At the hearing, you will present your arguments, including a review of the key evidence already likely filed with the court, witnesses may give oral evidence and can be questioned by the lawyers. The court then makes its decision.

  • 9

    Appeal

    The losing party generally will have the right to appeal this judgement before a higher court.

3

Criminal Cases

The process of bringing a criminal case is outlined in the flow chart below:

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