The Courts expects parties to a dispute to follow a “pre-action protocol” before court proceedings are commenced.
A Letter Before Action (sometimes called a ‘Letter Before Claim’ or ‘Letter of Claim’) is often the first step in this process. A Letter Before Action is usually sent from a claimant or their solicitor to a potential defendant.
Letters Before Action vary, depending for example on the particular claim being brought, or the factual background. Although not all Letters Before Action are clearly labelled as such, there is generally some common detail you can expect to find in one. This includes;
- Background information setting out the events leading up to the alleged breach of contract or duty. For example this could include the date any contract was formed and what terms were agreed.
- The legal basis for the claim, for instance what the alleged breaches of contract are.
- The consequences of the breach. Usually this will be a financial sum, whether specified precisely or estimated.
- The remedy the claimant is looking for. Again this is usually payment of a sum of money.
- A demand for a response or payment of the claimed sum.
- Such letters usually conclude with a threat to issue court proceedings, if no response or payment is made.
If you receive a Letter Before Action, there are some important steps that you should consider taking:
- Do not ignore the letter. If you fail to take any action, legal proceedings may be commenced against you. This could expose you to the risk of paying your opponent’s legal costs, even if you successfully defend the claim.
- Diarise the date by which you need to respond. If a date is not specified within the letter, you should acknowledge receipt as soon as possible.
- Consider your version of events. It can be helpful to collate any documents relating to the dispute, and you may find it useful to create a timeline of events.
- Contact your insurer or insurance broker. You may have legal expenses cover as part of an existing home insurance or commercial policy. Such cover may assist you with your legal expenses in defending a potential claim. It may even pay any sums a successful claimant is awarded for you.
- Consider contacting a solicitor. At Bell Lax, we have significant expertise in dealing with a wide range of civil and commercial disputes, and we would be happy to discuss matters with you.
If you have received a Letter Before Action, please feel free to contact us on 0121 355 0011 and one of our expert team will be happy to assist and advise you.